Merry Chrismas from the Family

We love them. Really. Truth is, though, our families can zero in on those buttons faster than a speeding bullet. Superman has nothing on the abilities of our mothers, fathers, siblings, or others related to us by blood, marriage, or circumstance to dig into the depths of our emotional basements and attics and drag out the boxes we've tried so hard to keep taped closed. So, as we gather with our respective broods of vipers (just kidding, mostly), here are some tips to keep your spiritual side in tact and the arrest for assault to a minimum.

Eating can't make the pain go away, but enough carbohydrates and sugar can render you catatonic enough to not care. Ask any woman who's been dumped. If a pint or two of Ben and Jerry's can temporarily mend a heart that's been stomped on by a soulless male, it will get you through a weekend with the family. I recommend Phish Food or the Creme Brulee.

Watch a movie. Several holiday films either a) show families way more dysfunctional than yours will ever be or b) are just so stinking sweet that you fall in love with your family all over again. For those searching for an a-type film may consider Home for the Holidays; A Christmas Tale (with subtitles, which generally makes at least one viewer complain - a plus); or The Amityville Horror. B-type films include Bad Santa (not for the super non-profanity types); It's a Wonderful Life; or Love, Actually.

Drink. I know, I know. One should not use alcohol to escape from problems. So if this is a real issue for you, choose from one of the healthier options on this list. If, however, you are able to imbibe, take the edge off with a good red or white. Just don't drive or discuss politics. And don't become the creepy uncle or aunt who knocks back one too many and starts telling stories about the woman or man you met on a wild weekend in Miami who broke your heart and left you with bad credit.

Play the awkward non sequitur game. Just see how many random non sequiturs you can insert into the many, many conversations about the nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and children's accomplishments on honor roll, ballet class, junior varsity football, or the county detention center. For example: Julie's mom: "Julie just made all A's again this year in school. We've already started the application process to Yale, even though she's only in pre-K. One can never be to early!" You: "I hear the new Viagra drug can be used to treat dogs with low blood pressure." See how long it takes for the family to head for the rum cake to ingest carbs and alcohol at the same time. Smile with victory.

Share incriminating stories about your siblings with their children. Really, the gift that keeps on giving. This is particularly useful if your siblings had a rebellious stage, but are now actively involved in the Junior League and their church and feign amnesia to the many, many nights that included the words "curfew violation" and "underage drinking." Use discretion, because you may have kids one day.

Pray. Remember, families, like us, aren't perfect, but they are what we've got. Their sandpaper has rubbed us in good ways and bad ways and ways that we aren't sure what to do. So, somewhere in the joyful chaos that is family, send up a gracious or exasperated thought to God. She's been dealing with this earthly family for a while, so in need or despair, She gets it, too.


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