Well, [heavy sigh], I guess it can’t be put off much longer. I knew we would be having one of these things soon enough. Yep, you guessed it. It’s the dreaded family gathering. Actually, we have 2 family gatherings coming up in the span of three days. If you dread family gatherings, this is for you. If you are the support system for those who dread family gatherings, this is also for you. I’m the support system in this scenario, since it’s my husbands family we will be dealing with. This doesn’t make it any less stressful. It’s pretty simple. He gets along great with one cousin, and not so much with the other. The gathering is at the cousin’s house to which he doth not get along.
You know how you can have people in your life that you love, because it’s mandatory to love your family, but they can get under your skin in a matter of seconds? You want to choke them first, and ask questions later. You become engulfed in a rage that is unexplainable. That’s how my hubby is with his younger cousin.
Without getting into the nitty gritty of the family feud, I will just say that before we have any family interaction at all, my husband and I have to sit down and have a meeting. We have to pow-wow. We have to prepare. We have to workshop the scenario. We have to plan the best route to take in order to keep him far away from the offending family member, so that the inevitable World War 3 does not begin. Here are some of the strategies that we employ for family gatherings.
Don’t Have High Expectations!
In fact — don’t have any. Then you can’t be disappointed.
No Hot Button Topics!
You know how whenever you discuss topic that are sensitive — some people can say whatever they want, but, when you talk about your point of view, things always go south? I’ve found that the best way to solve this dilemma is just not to talk about anything sensitive. If you do cross paths with the offending (in this case) cousin, talk only about the weather. If a conversation gets started about anything other than the weather, just smile and nod while listening intently, or simply excuse yourself and go to the restroom for a bit when you can’t take it anymore. Before you actually start pulling out your own hair, just…walk… away.
Just as an aside. I should have mentioned before that I think the best way to cope with a family gathering — whether his family or mine — is to start drinking as soon as you arrive. (Actually, drinking never really helps anyone. It’s probably best to stay sober). Support people have to be able to think and act quick if necessary! We need to be on out toes, people! Drink something else — a root beer — or a slushy. I do have a flask of whiskey in my purse — just for medicinal purposes, don’t you know.
Don’t Do It Alone.
Have a sidekick, or a wing man. Or a wing woman. Typically, for my husband, this is me. Occasionally it’s the other cousin that is his wing man. The cousin that he gets along with. In the past, if I am sensing things are going south, I’ve been known to deploy several tactics that I keep up my sleeve. It’s my job, as the wing woman, to deploy these necessary tactics. The Stink Eye, for one. A swift kick under the table, for two, or give him the “honey, come help me get X out of the car” routine. This one in particular allows me time to give him a quick pep talk. There are of course those rare occasions where an indian rug burn does the trick real fast. That’s an attention getter for sure!
Getting back to our strategy of how to cope at a family gathering, the next tip I advise is to MINGLE. Go talk to so-and-so over there! Look, there’s Mary Sue! Go chat her up! There are usually folks at these gatherings that we have seen from time to time, but have never actually spoken too. You know, those folks on the periphery. (They may not even be family members, it’s just that they are referred too as Aunt Whoever). Well, now is as good a time as ever! Introduce yourself and have an engaging conversation!
A new one that we’ve never really used before involves teenagers. Find the teenagers at the party and play video games with them! What better way to stay out of the fray? A little Grand Theft Auto on the Play Station will keep your mind busy! Vent with the Play Station! Vent with the Play Station!
If things are going well at the gathering, don’t jinx yourself by thinking “Gee, things are going well, I think we will stay just a little bit longer.” Don’t fall for it! Do not tempt fate! Don’t overstay your welcome! Make sure to stick with your pre-planned escape route, complete with rendezvous time and map.
In the end, try to keep things in perspective. There’s nothing wrong with being tactical about your approach to a family gathering. It’s not like you live with these people. But if attending a gathering will totally stress you out to the tenth degree, perhaps you should just not attend. In the end, do the right thing for you. And remember, that flask of whiskey is right here, in my purse!
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