I am not writing this post for those of you who are suffering or have done without this Thanksgiving, because if you have been suffering for a while now, most of you are already grateful for the significant things in life, such as food on the table or life itself. Others may be grateful for electricity being restored or for the Insurance adjuster showing up. It has been a matter of fact for years now, that the more mankind suffers, the more likely we are to be grateful for the things that others take for granted.
I write this instead for those who are gathering for Thanksgiving and dreading the moment. There are families who all have that one person, if not two or three, who feel it their yearly obligation.” to rain on our parades.” We all know them, they will say things like,”Why can’t Mary find a man?”; “Will Johnny ever get a decent job?;”or “Whats wrong with you anyway that you can’t be more like your Saintly sister?; “You know what your brother said about you?”; “I don’t know how your husband or wife can stand you or just the opposite I don’t know how you can stand your husband or wife,” or why are you so fat when your brothers and sisters aren’t?” Anything they can find to ridicule us about and then sit and laugh about it when they do insult us or hurt our feelings, like it is some kind of a fabulous joke. If they can’t show their own resentment in life, through turning us against the family, then they will turn the family against us.
When they are not making comparisons with one of us on the losing side of what they think is acceptable behavior in us, then they are putting their leg on a chair so no one can miss the fact that their arthritis is acting up in their knee or they belabor their suffering in great detail. There will be others who suggest that we can make a better broth or gravy if we just add such and such to it while others insist on carrying a conversation with us through the walls of a different room, while complaining that they cannot hear us, while we are trying to time the turkey coming out with the dinner rolls being finished. Others will complain about it being too hot while others complain about it being two cold. These same people will be the last to even notice that we are caring for a sick child or suffering from the end results of the flu, while we try to put on a brave front so we do not spoil our own family’s Thanksgiving.
Speaking from someone who swore each year that I was not going to go through another Holiday where the person involved in ALL of the above behaviors could ruin it for my family, it took years before I found the courage to tell her that we would be spending the holiday without her. Since there were 4 other children in 4 different States who could have paid her expenses and asked her for the Holidays but refused to, I had to learn to ignore the criticism and bear it, until it reached the point the only other one of her children who would take a turn ,decided to match the bullying techniques move by move, and then I washed my hands of it completely.
It is not easy to enjoy the Holidays with a mother only 4 blocks away and alone. I was greatly criticized by those who refused to give me a break by taking our mother in my place, and by others who knew a different person from the one both myself and my family knew. There does come a day in all of our lives that we must reach our own decisions on our own priorities. When we had honor rolls, graduations from not just highschool but college and grad school as well as engagements and marriage plans, there did come a time that as a grateful family, we did have the right to celebrate without the center of attention going to my mother who gains attention with continued hurtful or negative comments.
If you find that someone is ruining your Holidays, I do hope you take the time to understand their suffering and give them the attention that they crave,but I also want you to know when the negatives in your family is denying the other family members from giving thanks and celebrating the joys of the family, perhaps it is time to reverse your course or to ask,” what are the priorities of your loved ones?”
Respect walks a two-way street beginning with respecting our own needs as well as the needs of those who depend on us. For those who can deal with both, despite the abusive grumbling of spouses,mothers and bitchy fathers,jealous siblings,ungrateful children,complaining Aunts and Uncles or Grandparents, I congratulate you on your strength and forbearance. I hung in for 35 years out of my own sense of duty to my mother, but with growing health problems, myself, it was time to eliminate the negativity in order to enjoy the positive in our lives.
I know other people who deliberately make a habit of working the Holidays,or leaving for better weather, Vegas or the Beach, in order to avoid having to confront the issues of family. Others will go ahead and put up with it and then make their friends lives miserable for a month in both the dreading of it before the Holidays and the hurt of it when they leave. The Holidays can be stressful, because as much as many of us look forward to them there are many others who go into a depression that spreads through the family because they are hanging onto a time in their child hood or life when they felt deprived.
Others will lose loved ones on the Holiday and we do understand that they grieve, as a result of it. What I am describing here are those who feel that even though they got cheated in life, they are the experts over the entire family, and will not rest until they feel they get the upper hand even though they contribute nothing other than the complaints that brings all of the rest of us down.
We all hear how elderly parents are left to spend the Holidays alone by ungrateful children but never do we hear that parents are left to spend Holidays alone because they themselves have established a record of being ungrateful for those of us who do make the effort to include them until they themselves wear out their welcome.
Many times these same people will become the favorites of strangers or the nursing staff and then treat their own children like they are beneath them because they refused to believe as they were told to believe,accept the faith of their parents,loved someone their parents forbade them to love, or did not become the person the parent thought they should become. The parent was continually ashamed or embarrassed by their own children’s appearance or the way they dressed. At the same token some parents had reason for concern, when the adult child’s behavior was out of control or they were too willing to accept abuse,themselves. There are any number of ways beside ungrateful children, as to why family members do end up alone on Holidays.
I welcome the idea that mankind is one family and when our own blood family drives us away with their own behavior that they do find a friend or care giver that befriends them when we ourselves cannot. I think I speak for many this Holiday Season when I say that we are very grateful that our loved one’s have you in their lives. We do love them, despite the fact that when we try to love them, they themselves drive us away with their words and behavior against us.
Those of you who think I am talking about simple cantankerous relatives who are suffering, and it is the same that you welcome into your lives, all I can say for the rest of us is,”NO They Are Not! Not all of us are as fortunate as to have family members who are any different at 70 than they were at 30 or at 3, and there in lies the difference. We grow old as we grew young while some wounds are never allowed to scar or heal by those who spend a lifetime taking out their hurt on those of us who are the closest to them, while they refuse to get the help we offer them. Many times you instead can be the catharsis to them that we cannot be, and as a result we remain grateful to you, a total stranger.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and remember to be grateful for all of those who we too often take for granted and love each other. The less said the better Thanksgiving will be for all of us, if the only thing that crosses our minds has criticism attached to it, just because we may think it is constructive criticism, it has no place at the dinner table, now or ever. Perhaps constructive criticism does exist on a job where an employee struggles to learn the same, but criticism in a family is criticism.
If we can not treat family members with the human dignity of respect how can we teach our own children or grandchildren to give respect and to demand the same respect, in their own lives? If discussing our differences becomes as lop-sided as the lack of respect shown, then we need to make decisions in the best interests of those who do care about us and who depend on us. We cannot expect others to defend us if we refuse to defend our own right to be treated with human dignity. As adults if we cannot discuss our differences without demeaning ourselves or others, then it is time to consider another recourse. If we do not like receiving criticism ourself, then we must learn to be adults and not give it, as what goes around will come around. If you are traveling have a safe trip and God Bless us all!