The turkey is roasting. A mountain of potatoes have been peeled, boiled, and need mashing. You step into the kitchen to help and your crazy aunt starts screaming, “We must stay 6 feet apart or everyone’s gonna die!”
It may sound silly to some people, but others feel different. Many of us have a tightrope to walk this year.
It’s difficult enough getting everyone together under normal circumstances. In a post-Covid world, landmines are hiding everywhere. There’s no telling when one will be tripped or how far the impact will reach, but dealing with Covid drama this holiday season is sure to keep things interesting.
Lead with Respect
Despite my big mouth, I was raised to respect my elders. Sometimes they make me wonder if they truly deserve it. I’ve witnessed more 60 year olds acting like children than I’ve dealt with childish behavior in my own four kids. Even so, respect is something I am determined to offer them because they have more experience than I do and might just know something I don’t.
Modern ideologies declare that respect is a “two-way street,” and that it must be “earned.” I’m from a different insanity. One that determines that all living beings — all creatures — deserve respect because we all have a purpose. This philosophy helps me to refrain from overtly rolling my eyes or grimacing at my drunk uncles when they say something out of line.
Leading with respect is a graceful approach that offers others the benefit of the doubt, a chance to feel respected and reciprocate without pressure. It also allows my germaphobe Aunt Peggy to express herself without pressing my buttons.
Leading with respect is a graceful approach that offers others the benefit of the doubt.
It’s the same reason that I won’t try to convince others to think like me when they’re obviously set in their beliefs. If my aunt can’t see that a headline like “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests” is obviously propaganda, there’s not much I can do for her other than accept that she won’t agree with me and respect her right to believe what she wants to and leave it at that.
Dance on Common Ground
Extending respect makes it easier to find common ground and have fun. Contrary to popular obsessions, the world doesn’t have to revolve around political ideologies. We can function as family units in other ways.
My mother-in-law is terrified of Covid. She spent the better part of 2020 locked in her house hiding from everyone. She even went so far as to spray my poor father-in-law down with Lysol everytime he left the house and returned.
She knows my husband and I aren’t vaccinated, but that hasn’t stopped her from visiting us and the children this year. She got her shots and left it at that. She did what she felt was necessary for her.
Board games and karaoke are great ways to get everyone to enjoy each other’s company.
It’s not easy avoiding current events during family gatherings. Everything seems to circle back to the issues everyone is facing, but board games, karaoke, and other group activities are great ways to get everyone to enjoy each other’s company, and embarrass you the old fashioned way — without degrading anyone over vaccines, medical tests, or opinions on government mandates.
I’ll take arguing over Scrabble words to hearing anything about what’s going on at the White House any day. (And honestly, “phlerp” might not be in the dictionary right now, but I will get it in there some day!)
Let Humor Break the Silence
Whether you like to “phlerp” or not, silliness is more fun than pure cynical anger. My mother just finished her cancer treatments and one of my aunts is a nurse working in the Covid unit of her hospital. Both of them have received the Covid-19 shot, and both have supported my choice to abstain from the vaccine. Both are also adamant that we should still celebrate holidays with everyone in the family regardless of their vaccination status, hugging and all.
Oddly enough, the aunt working directly with Covid patients isn’t the germaphobe. She’s more concerned about allowing our immune systems the oxygen they need to properly work. But instead of harping on her terrified sister, or droning on and on like a crazy conspiracy theorist, she jokes about it. “Sure I got my shot. Haven’t dropped dead yet, but there’s still time.”
We all need to laugh sometimes, especially when things get weird.
I totally got my silliness from her. I would rather die eating turkey than hiding in a giant latex glove, and I’m not afraid to say it. So even though some of us have gotten the shot and some haven’t, most of my family members can laugh and agree with some wise cracks because a good sense of humor makes everything more fun.
We all need to laugh sometimes, especially when things get weird. If the holidays get real and you can feel the tension in a room suffocating your organs, release the pressure with a laugh. Try to be accommodating and respectful, but don’t be afraid to get punny, or turn on an old episode of a beloved holiday flick.
Humor reminds us of our better side. My mom and I have spent her time in the cancer center staying positive and finding the comedy in everything. It’s been a great help, and though she won’t be able to really taste much of anything this holiday season, she’ll definitely laugh as I hand her a pack of scratch-and-sniff food stickers.
The least we can do for each other is to set aside the Covid drama and remember that some things are more important. Instead of worrying about grandma’s health FOR HER, why not ask her what she wants?
She’s probably been missing hugs and kisses from the little ones. It’s a risk that people should be allowed to take if that’s their personal choice.
Covid or no Covid, don’t forget the love. Remember that family is a part of who you are whether you like it or not. Respect, common ground, and laughter will keep you connected in ways that go far beyond just the ties of blood.
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