Group Therapy is a relationship advice column in which readers contribute their wisdom.
A reader writes: I dread the annual holiday trip to stay with our extended families overseas. We're immigrants and I miss home, but the intensity of the visits is overwhelming. With three young kids and no hotel budget, I have no privacy and feel I have to be "on" all the time. It makes me crotchety and then I overcompensate, miss social cues and end up overwhelming everyone else. What do I do about this?
Make it a real holiday
It's definitely not a "holiday" when you've got jet lag, children, extended family and no privacy. If you simply must go? Leave the children with family while you take a break, even for an afternoon. An alternative? Return a few days early and take it easy!
– Elaine Harley, Toronto
Change your perspective
Whenever we have a group of teenagers both in the basement and in the attic with music thumping, and my wife and I stuck on the middle floor reading books, we look at each other and agree that we're the luckiest people in the world. So, find a way to change your dread to astonishment and revel in your luck. Remember, it could change in an instant.
– Bob Walker, Vancouver
Take a break
Travelling with three young kids is difficult at the best of times. We had one overseas Christmas trip – never again! Tell your extended family that you'll come on alternate years so you can budget for a hotel. They might even get the hint and cover some rooms for you.
– George Weiss, Ladysmith, B.C.
The Final Word
Allow me to share something not particularly pretty about myself to help you gain some perspective. Let's say my dearest friend in the world lived, oh, two blocks from my house. Now let's say she and I haven't seen each other for going on nine months. Furthermore, let's say it's Christmas. I'm invited to a cozy get-together at my dear friend's house. The weather is gloriously, unseasonably mild, just a few fluffy snowflakes wandering, postcard like, from the night sky.
All that being the case? I'd moan about it. I'd moan about having to get off the couch, find something to wear, dig around for a hostess gift and drag myself down the street. Certainly, I'd have a lovely time once I arrived.
But the getting there? I'd carry on, internally at least, like a Christian martyr enduring a fresh turn of the rack.
You, my friend, are the real martyr. Whose lives are being saved by the sacrifice of your free time and sanity? Okay, you love your family. Bob's point that everything could change in an instant is a sobering one. But your immediate family deserves consideration too.
Visit your relatives any time other than the holidays. Encourage them to visit you year-round, whenever the gods of seat sales allow. Or go, as George suggests, on alternate Christmases. Remember: If every "holiday" is spent at the mercy of jet lag and awkward conversations, happy memories aren't being forged. Resentments? Sure. Grudges? Check. Your family deserves better.
Lynn Coady's latest novel is The Antagonist.
Next week's question
A reader writes: My fiancé's best friend keeps hooking up with my single girlfriends. He's charming and attractive, but also a "use 'em and lose 'em" type. I confronted him, he promised to stop, and then proceeded to hook up with another friend. Yes, my girlfriends are adults – but why does he have to go after my friends when there are other women to pursue? Do I have a right to be mad?
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