Category Archives: Holiday

When It Becomes the Not-So-Happy-Holidays

Before I became a psychologist, I thought the holidays were only times of great joy. I looked forward to them with great anticipation, eagerly awaiting all the commotion.
Now, however, I realize that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a very painful time for so many people. For them, the holidays are a time of increased isolation and despair. As some of us talk about whom we will visit and how we will juggle multiple invitations, others wish they had even one place to go. As some of us complain that our in-laws want to see us, others wish they had in-laws. As some of us complain that our children will visit in-laws, others wish they had children. There is no one single cause of the pain people feel during this time of year. The pain they are in reflects their unfulfilled wishes, their dreams that – due to no fault of their own – cannot be realized, and their hopes that are fading with each passing day.

Given this reality, what can we do to help make this season more joyful for ourselves and for others? I propose that this holiday season we all do our best to turn our burdens into someone else’s joy.

This concept is not intuitive. After all, our burdens, our pains, are not things we tend to think are worth sharing with others. That’s because we see those burdens from our own vantage point; seeing it from someone else’s can make all the difference. Some examples will help:

  • If you cannot spend a holiday with someone because you are accepting a different invitation, tell him or her when you will visit and that whenever you are with them, it is a holiday (http://real-matters.com/?p=27).
  • If one of your holiday guests is your burden, treat that person as if you have never met and try to get to know them. Perhaps a new relationship will develop as you listen to new stories rather than focusing on the old ones.
  • If you have no children, help someone who does. Offer to watch their children while they prepare for the holiday. If you don’t know someone with children, volunteer at a center that will have a holiday party for children in need. Volunteer to bring food to parents whose child is hospitalized.
  • If you are overwhelmed with the children you have, ask someone who longs for children, to help you. If you know that you will complain that you have no room in your refrigerator or freezer for your left over food, don’t cook it – donate it to a food bank.
  • If you will be alone for the holiday, spend it with someone else who would be alone, but not for your offer to spend it with them.

No matter what your situation is, giving of self will increase your connection to others and connection is the key to joy, not just over the holidays – but any day.

The Joy of Parenting

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are often billed as days for children to “pay back” parents for all they do for them all year. Parents forgo personal desires for them, devote themselves to them, and struggle for them. Some parents see Mother’s and Father’s Day as a reimbursement for all the sacrifices and struggles. While mothers and fathers certainly deserve love and attention, the term “payback” makes parenting sound like a chore rather than a joy. I like to think of it differently.

For me, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are opportunities to sit back for a moment and reflect on the wonders of family. Instead of rushing around, we have the opportunity to observe the love that surrounds us. On such days, we indulge in the luxury of watching our family. We watch our toddler share their blanket, or their cookie, or their toy; in other words, we watch them share their heart. We watch our teen struggle to say, “I love you” with a card. Whether that card is funny, near silent with so few words, or two pages of heart-felt words that are not said on any other day, we watch them learn to share their heart and expose their vulnerability to others. We watch our adult children navigate the world of including their significant other into their family while they also navigate how to become a part of someone else’s family.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are opportunities to celebrate our successes – the times we parented with poise and grace, the times we said and did just the “right” thing, the times we were able to provide just the right amount of support. It is also a time to celebrate our less successful days – the times we yelled, the times we hurt their feelings, the times we said all the wrong things, the times we provided the wrong support (too much, too little, the wrong kind). These are, after all, the times they had to learn that they could stand on their own and figure out the world on their own, and survive the curveballs that life would throw at them. These are the times we taught them the power of forgiveness and the continuity of love. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are days to celebrate our strengths and weaknesses as people, as sons and daughters, moms and dads, as siblings, and as members of our family.

They are days to express our gratitude to those who have shared their love with us. I am grateful to my mom for showing me how to be strong on the outside when inside I may want to cry. That is something that has been so helpful to me professionally and personally. I am grateful to my dad for showing me that I deserve to be treated like a princess – like a person who is confident, respected, loved, listened to, admired, and fun to be around. I am grateful to my husband for helping to create a family bound together by love, respect, fun, and mutual support. I am grateful to my “mom friends” who shared growing up with me (our children’s growth and our own). I am grateful to my children for helping me see that parenting is not a chore; it is a joy.

I wish you all a day of reflection. Happy parenting!

  • ~”Parenting is a journey that takes us from total responsibility for another person to the development of a responsible person” Diane Urban, PhD ~

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