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By : Nikki Savage


It’s that time of year again.  Tis the season to gather together with family and friends and celebrate the winter holidays.  The kids already have their lists ready and excitedly await the whirlwind of cookies, presents, and family visiting.  And the adults, maybe not so excited for this busy time of year.


Let’s face it, the holidays ain’t what they were like as kids, when we would just need to wake up to the magic.  We overeat, overspend and overschedule ourselves during the holidays and they usually leave us feeling overfull, overtapped and overwhelmed.  And, sadly, sometimes the most stressful part of these times can be the family part.  This is especially true for families that don’t agree on politics and religion or just have opposing views of the world in general.


Now everyone knows we don’t talk politics or religion or opposing views at these events, especially in these divided times.  But everyone also knows that it always seems to come up.  We all have the one guest who likes to stir the pot.  I’ll admit that I have been an occasional pot stirrer myself though I do have a blanket “holiday no stir” policy.  But, my “holiday tongue biting in the face of pot stirring” game is weak.  Even as my mind screams, “Disengage!”, my mouth will carry on with whatever it wants.


I used to try disable this reflex with alcohol.  As soon as good old Uncle Hater would start stirring, I would head for the liquor cabinet.  Uncle Hater is the name I’ll give to my stirrer of holidays past  who generally is against most things I am for and who also sees gatherings as a one time shot at satisfying his passion for arguing.  Since outing myself as a terrible tongue-biter, I became one of his favorite targets.  I would usually follow his first comment with, “Who wants shots?”  Big old smile on my face as I hoped he’d get the hint.


I found this method lacking as he would never take the cue and the more shots I’d take, the weaker my tongue-biting ability became.  That coupled with not being able to bounce back from shots like I used to has me looking for new, healthier ways of coping.


Avoidance could be an option.  But, in my case, with a smaller family gathering, it can be a bit more difficult to keep it from being too obvious.  The intention is not to hurt anyone’s feelings after all!  Just to get through a gathering without wanting to throw anyone into a rear naked choke hold.  That’s all I’m looking for here.


Maybe I could bring an unsuspecting child into the mix to lighten the conversation? Whichever child walks by first.  Like, “Hey there little Johnny, why don’t you tell Uncle Hater about school while I go do more shots…”  Hehe.  There’s those darn shots again.  I can’t do that to the children.


I could try to view the arguing as a holiday tradition and embrace it as such.  Kind of like the “Airing of Grievances” portion of Festivus.  Only then I’d be inviting more arguing into the situation.   Maybe we can move right to “Feats of Strength”?


Or maybe I’ll try smile therapy.  Whatever is said, even if it reeks of the highest quality bait on the market, I’ll just smile and nod.  And respond with non-confrontational things like, “That’s an interesting perspective.”  Hmmm, that could work.  Or maybe I can carry around a tray of food so I can perpetually have something to shove in my mouth before I speak.  Giving me time to thwart a knee-jerk response or the opportunity to choke myself unconscious.  That’s got potential too.


Sigh.  Or I can just allow it to be what it is and know it is all part of the family gathering.  It is what makes those memories so endearing.  It is what gives Aunt Always polite the extra aggression she needs to carve the main course.    Ahh the memories.


Okay, so I didn’t offer much in the way of help here.  But maybe that is where you can step in.  Go on and comment with any advice you have for keeping the family gatherings festive and light.  Or feel free to vent about your own Uncle/Aunt Hater and maybe get some venom out before he/she arrives. :)



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