Family has not always been my favorite subject. When I was a teenager, I was way too cool for my parents, and my siblings were nothing but an annoyance — and there were plenty of them to annoy me. I was a real pain in the butt whenever my parents tried to gather the family together for any kind of activity.
As I got older, my vision cleared. My parents were doing their best to guide me, and my siblings were simply living their lives. They weren’t trying to be irritating. It wasn’t their fault that I was a hormone-riddled hot mess. Now that I’ve grown up, I really enjoy my family. We sit around and talk and laugh together. My siblings are some of my favorite people.
I especially enjoy the holidays. I love seeing things through my child’s eyes. Everything is fresh and new and full of delight — and his delight brings the best parts of my childhood memories back to me.
At Easter, he tries to catch the Easter Bunny on his rounds. At Christmas, he is ready at dawn to see what Santa brought. I know that will fade as he gets older, but for now, it really makes everything that much more magical. As a parent, my little family is the most important thing in my world.
For most of us, the holidays mean gathering with family. Unfortunately, for many, that causes a lot of stress. We remember past offenses, worry that our families will be judgmental, or that they will not live up to our hopes and expectations.
I have had many times when a gathering has stressed me out, so I sympathize with those in similar situations — but I’ve learned something recently that I’d love to share with you. Hopefully it will help. It’s a small thing: simplify.
Looking back at the gatherings that left me feeling like my head would explode, they all had something in common: I was making too big a deal of things. I was trying to plan that elaborate Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people, complete with pre-dinner games and place settings that would wow everyone.
I was reading magazines or on Pinterest, expecting my life to measure up to those glossy and perfected images. But those images never held the most important ingredient: my family. In letting go of some of my over-the-top plans, I am free to enjoy the time with company. They likely enjoy being around me too since I am far less stressed.
Another reason we feel stress at the holidays are because we are harboring hard feelings from years past. Many families have history that make gatherings stressful. For those in that situation, forgiveness is vital to getting your peace of mind back.
It’s not fair to yourself to let every gathering make you sick to your stomach — and chances are that the person who hurt you will never do enough to make it up to you. Often, the offense requires caution in dealing with that person in the future. But you don’t have to let it eat at you.
Holding grudges will make those inevitable gatherings that much more stressful. I’m not suggesting that you torture yourself, but remember your children are making memories and deserve to interact with their relatives, despite how you may feel about them — assuming they aren’t dangerous.
Family is a strengthening force. When relationships are good, they are an unequaled source of support and guidance. It’s not healthy to hold onto grudges and past injuries, and since the next generation is looking to us for an example of how to behave, let’s give them a good one. Past hurts need to heal, and we are the ones in the driver’s seat.
Bitterness is the poison we swallow, hoping to kill another. But if we can rid our hearts of that poison by forgiving freely, it will strengthen our family relationships and we will all be blessed. Then, our newly strengthened family will bless every member of it.
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.