by Erica Ly
According to some, sitting around the dinner table with your whole family, including relatives from every “once-removed”, “twice-removed”, situation possible, is actually the cause of literal, diagnosable, stress and anxiety. This means that greeting good ol’ Uncle George who asks you about your grades every year, is the equivalent of the anxiety felt by a convict in court in front of the jury.
A classic Christmas movie I grew up watching.
Here are the major roles of family members that students generally agree cause them the most stress:
1. Grandma and Grandpa
Seen to be the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in Monopoly, almost everyone can agree that grandparents are the saviours from Christmas awkwardness. Being asked for the hundredth time about why you would willingly go vegan? Suddenly, Grandma needs a hand in the kitchen and you don’t have a chance to answer the question – oops. Children also love grandparents for the more innocent reason that “Grandma and Grandpa bring the best gifts”.
So you’re being asked if you’re in a relationship, again…just like every year. Tricky question, if you answer “no”, you either receive a look of sympathy like you are simply “un-dateable”, or a look of disgust. As you reach your twenties and thirties, the expressions only get more and more candid.
If you answered “yes”, you proceed to deal with a different family member…
So you’ve answered “yes” to being in a relationship. If he didn’t know about it before, now Dad is hounding questions on you layer after layer, like pasta and tomato sauce in lasagna.
Not only does he want to meet this person as soon as possible, and pester you on why you didn’t tell him about this earlier, now, Dad is preparing his killer list of twenty-questions that make or break your relationship. These range from, “If you don’t take care of them, I’ll take matters into my own hands” to “If my child and I both fell into an ocean, who would you save?”. This is the only test that you can’t study for.
Hello, knock-knock jokes and bad puns. The real punch-line is that you have to laugh at these jokes or your uncle’s foul mood is going to spread over the entire dinner table. So, put on your best smile and brave the next-level “Dad jokes” coming your way. Maybe even spin things around and pull out a couple jokes of your own. See if he’s as accepting of the puns as you are…
You’re expected to be civil with Cousin Winnie, who ripped the heads off your Barbie dolls when you were younger, and buried your toy cars in the backyard for absolutely no reason. Or Cousin Rob who used to pick his nose and show you the “discovery” before he ate it. The things that you all did, simply didn’t make sense then, and they still don’t now. It may be difficult to separate the past from the present, when the past was rather messy.
You thought sibling rivalry was serious in front of Mom and Dad? Now with more adults around you than ever – here comes the battle for best model child. Suddenly, your lazy brother is helping out in the kitchen just to get praise from Aunt Delilah and hear you get reprimanded with, “You should be more like your brother!”. Your sister, who never gets off her phone, is making small-talk with Grandma and rubbing her feet – the winner for best grandchild is clear.
Congratulations, you are now the major target of comparison. Where your lack of extracurricular activities was only a minor issue at home, with the help of your aunts and uncles now you are compared to every cousin you have and all their accomplishments. You won one gold medal in soccer at Regionals? Cousin Larry won five gold medals. At five years old.
This feeling of inadequacy lasts until long after that Christmas buffet is digested. And just so that there is something you can make your Mom proud of next Christmas, you are now enrolled in classes for piano, fencing, flower-pressing, and water skiing.
If you have a dog or cat, Christmas is definitely their favourite time of the year. There is never so much to sniff and greet in the confines of your house. If your relatives are bringing over their pet as well, you will either have great company for your own pet, like the pictures we see online of cats and dogs humbly getting along, or the loudest and most chaotic Christmas ever known to man-kind with running, barking and meowing every second.
So, if possible, rise to the occasion and have one less word to say in every disagreement brewing around the table. Show the true meaning of Christmas and appreciate that you have someone to spend the holidays with, and treasure every minute you have with your whole family.