Managing your Family Mess on Thanksgiving

_FTHoliday family gatherings can be good and—not so good. Good that you can see folks you haven’t seen in a while– and not so good when seeing those same folks ushers in whole host of “issues.” If you saw the made for TV movie, “The Royal Family Thanksgiving” on NewsOne last week, then you got a good dose of how families can unravel on holidays. The movie featured a black couple whose four children had resolved never to come home again on holidays. So the couple cooked up a fake divorce to get the children to come home one last time. As the movie unfolded, children came home, but also tensions and pent-up feelings about all sorts of stuff. Then the movie made a dramatic twist when it was revealed that one daughter was in fact the product of an extra-marital affair by the father. The fake divorce then turned serious as the wife began to deal with long suppressed issues—and left the house. The next part, “The Royal Family Christmas,” will resolve this family mess.

Psychologists have tried to explain why holiday family gatherings can be so stressful—sometimes to the point of extreme violence. No one has a good answer except that most people can only tolerated so much “putting on a front” around the Thanksgiving table. When “some” folks show up “skinning and grinning” for get-togethers, and “other” folks know that the whole thing is one big fat charade that’s when the “you ain’t all that” gloves come off. These gloves come off especially when “strangers,” as in new wives and boyfriends show up. That’s when the air around the Thanksgiving table can be thick enough to cut with a knife. That’s when feathers can fly and folks turn loose a whole array of pent up feelings laying just beneath the surface. So long as folks stay away from these holiday gatherings there is no reason for all this stuff to come to a head. And this explains why so many folks decide to just skip family gatherings to avoid too many questions about too much stuff they don’t want to deal with.

The television Royal family faced its pent up feelings issues when the wife decided to invite each family member to just say whatever was on their minds—with no commentary from other family members. One by one, stuff came up, including a confession by one member that he was a Republican—some family suspected he would say he was gay, and preferred that to being a Republican. Another member confessed that her white boyfriend was 24 years older, married—with children. Another announced that she was going to close her business and become a minister. On and on these confessions went until the wife had to confess her own issues about feeling boxed in and not free for years. Then the tears began to roll as she fell apart right before the family she was trying to bring back into the nest. There was no nest—the nest was a bunch of strewed about straws, likely never to be neatly arranged again.

So what is the best way to deal with family during the holidays? How can the two remaining, big celebration days be less stressful? How do you gather the family around the Thanksgiving table and have it be a “judgment free zone?” How do you get your family members to leave the knives, guns, and hand grenades in their cars and not bring them inside? Good luck. Good luck trying to avoid conversations that quickly go off the rails. Good luck with to avoid conversations about religion an politics, especially this year. Good luck trying to avoid a conversation with someone who “knows” the Bible inside and out. Good luck with the person who says, “I don’t believe in God.” Good luck trying not to deal with ISIS terrorism and not deal with KKK domestic terrorism on Black America. Good luck trying to have “nice” sanitized conversations about the last trick the dog learned when there are more serious issues at hand. You can always do as the wife in the Royal family did—scream, “Dammit, we are all going to be happy up in here—now pass the turkey and dressing!”

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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