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Holidays and the Great Big Indian Family

Once upon a time, the holiday season meant a break from the daily routine with a relaxing vacation on a beautiful beach. Holidays were time for peaceful reflection, rejuvenation, and romantic dinners.

Then the kids came along. And anything peaceful went out of the window.

For many couples and their child(ren), holidays and festivals now have to be split between “his” and “her” sides of the family. And the challenge often lies in making sure that the division of time is equitable.

Who gets Christmas? Who gets Diwali? Who gets spring break? Who gets summer break? For some reason, grandparents who forget where they place their eyeglasses every few hours have a razor-sharp memory when it comes to recollecting each holiday choice made by their grown children over the last decade.

Interestingly (and also disconcertingly), our parents don’t really care about how much time we spend with them anymore. But they carefully guard every single minute with their grandchildren. Our generation has been unceremoniously displaced by our own children in the affections of our parents.

It’s not just the grandparents that care about getting enough time with the kids. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends all take offence if the children are not paraded to each of their homes during the holiday season. In instances where all sides of the family live in the same city, holidays are often spent in horrendous traffic as you painfully make your way between the different homes. Should you dare to skip anyone’s home, be prepared to deal with the emotional outburst that follows.

For couples whose parents and other close family live in different cities, the decision on where to spend the holidays can be agonizing. It’s not enough for just the two of you to agree. Communicating that decision and managing the deflated expectations of the people who will not be seeing you – and, more importantly, the kids – can be emotionally taxing.

The spirit of the holidays is often lost amidst all the stress and drama of planning them. Here are a few parenting tips on how to mitigate some of the stress on your next holiday:

Plan ahead and communicate.

No one likes surprises, and the only beneficiaries of last-minute planning are the price-gouging airlines. So decide early in the year where you will be spending the various holidays and communicate the plans to your families. This helps them make their own plans in a timely fashion, rather than being disappointed just before a holiday without you.

Divide and conquer.

Often different sides of the family care about different festivals. For instance, one side may care more about spending the Ganesh festival with the grandchildren, while Diwali would be more important for the other. If both sides of the family care equally about the same holiday, alternate whom you spend it with each year. Either way, plan early, communicate, and make the most of that time together.

Keep one holiday just for yourselves.

A few years ago, we decided that we were going to go away for the holidays—just the two of us and the children.   Everyone in the family was upset with us for not spending the festive occasion with them, but the saving grace was that no one felt that anyone else had been favored. A few weeks later, it was all forgotten. We now make sure that we take at least one holiday every year just by ourselves.

Be realistic and a little indulgent.

Bedtimes are put on moratorium and unreasonable behavior, which your children wouldn’t dare exhibit otherwise, is on full display when adoring grandparents are around. Remember that these will be some of the memories that your children will cherish when they are older. You can sort out the little ruffians in a week, once they are back under your roof and control.

Go away together.

Everyone needs a break from the daily routine, so don’t wait for a special occasion. Take a vacation with the grandparents and go away together. It’s a great way to combine quality family time with seeing a new place. You might also get a chance to have that romantic dinner while the grandparents and grandchildren bond separately.

Meditate frequently.

While family reunions at holidays are fun, they can also be very stressful with an overall sense of chaos and conflicting viewpoints on activities, dining choices, entertainment options and … everything else. Chant something peaceful, take deep breaths, and remember that this, too, shall pass.

P.S. Wine helps, too.

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