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Family Matters: When The Kids Opt Out Of Xmas

Family Matters: When The Kids Opt Out Of XmasThe eyes dim as we get older, but our vision is in some ways stronger, for all that experience helps us see what’s coming, right?

Not always.

How about when the kids decide they want to opt out of the holidays? Too much stress, they say. Too much commercialism. Too much noise. We quit.

Your experienced mind may understand. You’re just as put off by the ads, the pressure, and the neighbor’s house lights, now visible from the space shuttle. But your heart may have a different reaction. Opt out of the holidays? The holidays have never been about expensive gifts or over-the-top celebrations.

The holidays have been a time to reconnect, to share the year’s highlights, to relive stories from the past, to talk about how we got from there to here, and where the path may lead in the months ahead. They’re about board games, laughter in the kitchen, and feeling like The Incredibles after watching the cartoon feature someone always selects for family viewing on Christmas day.

As the kids get older and move away, the gap between these reunions gets larger. The holidays offer a built-in and convenient way to close the distance.

Not that there aren’t a lot of people who’d like to hit pause.

Each year, stories surface about average folks who are done. Typical is a USA Today piece that quoted a disgruntled marketing consultant. “No gifts, no tree, no turkey, no kidding,” the divorced mom told the newspaper in 2011.

Blogger Sarah Welch last year found the trend significant enough to offer “six graceful ways to opt out of holiday family traditions.”

And if you type, “I hate Christmas” into Google, you’ll get page after page of results. “Christmas is at our throats again,” begins one piece in the New Republic.

In a way, it’s painful to think that the same holidays that brought us such delight as children now cause so much angst. You could blame the advertising folks who have adroitly exploited the emotional pull that should be a source of strength and renewal in families. Or you could blame all us suckers who have permitted the season to begin earlier and earlier. We salivate over the sales and coupons, arriving at physical and virtual stores long before we’ve even digested the turkey and candied yams.

Of course families are not powerless.

Some can and do focus mainly on the religious aspect of the holidays. But any family can set boundaries and limits. Like, no gifts over a certain amount, or maybe pick names from a hat and only one gift per person. Limit photos to one hour, and give everyone enough time to fix hair and make-up. Maybe the answer is one year on, one year off. And a plant instead of a tree.

Facing this holiday season without one of our three, I wonder if we missed some signs along the way that would have facilitated adjustments and kept the family intact this Dec. 25. There is also a part of me that wonders why a compromise can’t be drafted and adopted that would enable everyone to be together when the gifts are opened. Or not.

Did you ever face (or lead) an Xmas rebellion? What was the key to getting through?

Read more posts by Steve Piacente, a former print journalist and correspondent.

For more information:

USA Today story: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2011-12-22/cutting-back-christmas-spending/52144864/1

Sarah Welch blog: http://blogs.babycenter.com/tips_and_tricks/110420136-graceful-ways-to-opt-out-of-famil-holiday-traditions/

New Republic story: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115994/reasons-why-christmas-terrible-holiday


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