Last week I talked about being a soft place for my kids to land by being an encourager instead of a fixer. Over the weekend another aspect of being a soft place to land came to my mind.
With the holidays fast approaching, our college and adult kids will be making plans of their own. They may have friends they want to spend time with. If they are dating a special someone they may be invited to festivities of that person’s family. If they are married, there is almost always the dilemma of whose family do we visit, when, and for how long.
Most of us have been in the middle of the tug-of-war that can happen when making plans for the holidays. Many times the tension of where-to-be-and-when is not intended; it naturally happens as logistics and emotions collide.
A few years ago as our kids approached their adult years, I anticipated giving them the gift of no tension at the holidays—our home would always open and a celebration ready to happen when someone walked through the door. I still feel that way. But putting it into practice now that we have three married daughters with in-laws in three different states is a challenge.
Disclaimer: Before I go on and you try to read something into what I write below, I want to tell you what wonderful in-laws all three of our girls have. Truly loving, caring, generous, and kind folks who love our girls like their own. None of what I am about to share comes from a struggle with the in-laws. They are delightful. What I am about to share comes from my own struggle to adjust to and accept the new norm.
Planning together time over the holidays has many moving pieces—locations, family members traveling long distances, work and school schedules, and other families with their own variety of moving pieces. All of these variables would be a challenge for even the best event planner.
My plan (and I use that word loosely) is still in process. My goal is something like this—Yikes! Even trying to write it I panic, as it truly is an organic being with a life of its own.
My goal for our holidays starts with the kids telling me when they can come. I let everyone know when the others can be here. Then if they want to adjust their plans to be there when everyone is there they can. Then I set the time we will do the major traditions—meals, getting the tree, gifts, etc. This way they can make plans with other family or friends.
My goal is to have a plan for the important things but with no expectations for those who can’t be there. This year we won’t have the kids all home on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It’s just the way things worked out this year. For those who are here, we will celebrate big. For those who aren’t, we’ll celebrate when they can be here.
As the mom I want to do my best to not put pressure on anyone. These kinds of expectations push people away—not what I want over the holidays or any time of year.
A few years ago when we were in the difficult teen years with the kids, God gave me this visual illustration. My relationship with my kids is like a rubber band. I am holding one end and they are holding the other. The more I pulled on my end by making things that weren’t important the more taunt the rubber band became. The tension built. When my kids finally would leave home they would go far away (at least relationally) because of the tension I had put on the relationship. But if I didn’t put tension on the relationship by not making things that aren’t important more important than the relationship with my kids, then the rubber band hangs limp. When the kiddos leave the nest they do so to pursue their dreams knowing we love and support them, not to get away from us. This analogy helped me remember what was truly important in relationship with my kids.
I share our story not to say we are doing it the only right way. I share with you so you can see my process and hopefully that will help you in your process.
The holidays can be tough. Not everyone has in-laws that play nice like my girls have. But keeping expectations low and the door always open is one more way we are a safe place to land.
*For more ideas on pursuing a healthy relationship with your teens, college, and adult kids, check out Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.