Guest Author - Kathie LoMonaco
These days there are many more extended families - which translates to mean parents sitting at the same table, across from their divorced spouses, with their respective second spouses or significant others, in order to celebrate the holiday with either their daughter or their son, and their grandchildren, stepchildren, stepgrandchildren, new in-laws, former in-laws -- well, you get the drift. There is a potpourri of personalities and ethnicities which comprise a sort of melting pot when the holidays roll around - and I'm sure this is not easy - as everyone usually has their own agenda. Everyone tries to come together for the sake of their (adult) children and grandchildren. It is especially hard if you have only one (adult) child - take it from me. I know first-hand.
I just got done going to the post office with some goodies for my daughter and son-in-law for Thanksgiving. My package is now winging its way to my daughter and son-in-law, instead of me. I will not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with them - and I'm sure my ex-husband is just devastated over that - as I will be working, believe it or not. My daughter lives in another state - and she will have her usual guests over - relatives who live near her in the state she is currently calling home. It is a consistent heartache I have been going through since my daughter moved away some twelve years ago.
People need to check their egos at the door - putting petty jealousies and issues aside if this type of situation is going to work. No one wants to dread going to a holiday 'celebration' when there are resentments and animosities going on at the table which only serves to make the atmosphere so tense, you could cut it with a knife. I know it's easier said than done - there is usually a history involved among the family members and we all know it's difficult to re-invent the wheel so to speak - and to forget all the transgressions of the past - in fact, I'm sure you've heard of the adage - to forgive is 'divine'.
I personally think, however, that most people find it very difficult to be so magnanimous, as much as they might want to let bygones be bygones - it takes supreme fortitude and nobleness sometimes to overlook deep hurts and in some cases indignities to be able to get beyond the bruised feelings; and, in certain cases, there are serious underlying issues which make it bordering on impossible to 'allow' oneself to be subjected to any further injustices. I always wonder how many people have extenuating circumstances as in my case - and what they do about it especially when the holidays roll around.
I wonder how many ex-husbands, or ex-spouses for that matter, apologize for their past unacceptable(abusive) behavior in order to pave the way for a more tolerable situation at holiday time - when all come together for the sake of their adult children. The healing has to start somewhere, and I can't think of a better catalyst than for them to admit to themselves first and foremost, and then to their former spouses, that their past behavior was disrespectful and fell far short of acceptable.
With age is supposed to come maturity - well, to me, that would be a very adult and mature thing to do. If, however, they are still carrying around their air of arrogance due to inflated egos and their smug and macho attitudes, sad to say I don't hold out much hope that extended families can be a workable arrangement. Older does not necessarily mean wiser.
That's my two cents on melding extended families together when there are unresolved issues and anger from past behavior and hurts. A healing can only take place when people start accepting responsibility for their behavior and the consequences of that behavior.
Bringing in-laws together is another spin-off issue part and parcel to this topic - to be addressed in another article - in particular, when there has been any misunderstandings and hard feelings that have been swept under the rug and never resolved. This makes for a bumpy carpet around the holiday table. Unless these feelings and issues are dealt with - they will only serve to undermine the flow of communication that should be evolving over time, even if only for the sake of peace and harmony as they sit around the table with their adult children and extended families and enjoying all the fringe benefits that go with those relationships.