The holidays can be a stressful time of year. While often filled with presents and joy, you might stumble across a family gathering’s arguments.
The heated debates in my family stem from the clashing political views and outspoken personalities. With 19 years of these family dinners under my belt, I have come to you to pass on some tips I have acquired over the years.
- Always have an out. When your grandma starts talking about Donald Trump and your dad is pushing Christianity on his atheist uncle, it’s time to bolt. My favorite excuse for leaving is, “I think my dog needs to be let out.” This is a solid cover because it can buy you as much time as you need. If you don’t have a dog, here are some other valid alibis:
– Excuse yourself to use the bathroom but don’t make it too long. One of two things could happen: your family tears each other’s heads off, or they begin to discuss your odd bowel movements.
– Start cleaning dishes. This is always a good choice because you will gain brownie points with the fam.
– Say you have to let your dog out and hope everyone is so wrapped up in the argument they don’t notice.
– Though not optimal, fake fainting. My great-grandma used to pull this trick every once and a while, so why can’t I?
- Have a safe topic. Chose a topic you can gradually steer the conversation towards if dinner starts going awry. In general, school is always a safe topic (unless a family member attends UND).
Say something like, “Boy, I sure do miss home cooked meals when I am at school.” This will hopefully bring the conversations to something more neutral like the weather or your class schedule, but be careful. This phrase may land you a weekend visit from your aunt and cousin. Or worse: hosting next year’s holiday gathering. However, with some luck you will shift the dialogue and maybe even score some “home-cooked” meals to bring back to school.
- Build a secret alliance. This is the most important tip. If all other strategies fail at least you will have a partner to save you. It is best that you keep this alliance secret. If word gets out family members may feel like they are being ganged up on. The purpose of this alliance is to facilitate whatever shift in the conversation you attempt.
Take the last tip for example, if you say how you miss dad’s cooking, your partner (usually another relative close in age) could say, “I miss your soup the most”. Though this conversation is bland, it is decidedly better than whatever racist phrase your grandfather spits out and the bickering that follows.
Families can be difficult but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them. Just make sure you are prepared for all of the “interesting” discussions that may arise this holiday season. And, now that I have spilt all of my secret tips, go forth and good luck.