That’s all I have to say….about stepfamilies and the holidays.
No, really, this is the way to handle the holidays if you are in a stepfamily. After almost 13 years of being in my stepfamily, I still fall prey to my ultimate Christmas.
The more I think about it, maybe we should say: Holidays. Stepfamilies. No Expectations. To me though, that almost implies that there is no hope for a wonderful Holiday.
As I see our 5th wedding in our family coming up this week (and 1 more next year,) and then Christmas on the heels of that, I still have to remind myself to not get caught up in expectations. In these times of our lives, be it a wedding or holiday, emotions can run high. For me, because I want everyone to have a wonderful experience, I sometimes get hyper-vigilant in communicating. I want answers now. So I can plan. So everyone will be happy and less stressed. Can you imagine if everyone handled life like me, how much we could get done!!??
Yet, getting things done is not always the smartest way to handle the holidays…let alone people. And the other extreme of not planning at all can have the same outcome. How do you find that sense of calm in the craziness of multiple schedules (which are ever-changing) and not totally lose your mind?
When I actually stop, take a deep breath and be quiet, I can start to see things a little more clearly. Asking these questions help calm me down and give me some perspective:
1. How does my plan impact the kids? (all of them)
Am I adding more stress to their Holiday?
2. How am I adding more stress to everyone else? (in-laws/out-laws, etc.)
3. Am I willing to “die on this hill?”
How important is this…really? Am I being selfish or is this really important to me?
4. What other options are there?
Gathering on a different day? Combining celebrations?
5. How am I showing who Jesus really is in me?
6. Am I extending Grace?
Even to myself? No, you won’t be the worse Mom/Dad is you buy cookies at the store instead of making them at home.
As I look back on my stepfamily life, there have been many times I got super stressed and didn’t need to. I would run all these scenarios in my head of conversations with the exe’s that would always seem to be undermining me/us. More times than not, these were false voices in my head. After speaking with the other bio parents, we were actually all on the same page. Was it easy? No. Did I always do it right? No. Do I remember what worked and what didn’t? Getting better. Because I was able to keep my mouth shut and let things run its course everything usually worked out fine.
Now, I can just hear, “But Brenda, you don’t know my exe. Everything does not turn out alright! And they really are trying to undermine me and my family!”
Take a deep breath. The only person and circumstances you can control are your own. I’m sure you have heard this before…but it’s true. Sometimes by extending grace and understanding, the walls of contention come down. I realize this may not work in every situation. Ready for a tough question? Have you really, honestly listened to their heart/situation with empathy? When people feel that they have been heard, it’s amazing what can happen. You don’t have to agree… just listen.
What will lowering your expectations for the holiday bring? Less stress, more opportunity to listen and become more selfless. Maybe it’s time as a family to create some new memories and history. This can happen throughout the year, not just during the holidays.
Wise words for the stepfamily journey: lower expectations.