Episode 56

Family conflict
during the holidays

November 21, 2022

[Kyle]: In today's podcast we're going to talk about the holidays. Do you enjoy them? Are they crazy? Are they full of stress and frustration? Well, we want to really equip you on creating the holiday season with your family that you want and how to leave that legacy for generations.
[Music]
[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 56 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: And I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: And today, hopefully you hear a difference in our voices, you know? Starting last podcast, we bought some new microphones.
[Sara]: We did. Yay!
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, we're excited because we didn't necessarily like how the sound was in the other one. So, it is a different type of way in which we're recording. We're still not in the space we want, we're still in the master closet recording these episodes. Now we're sitting side by side, because we just have one mic hooked up, right? And we eventually want to get two and so, just to let our audience know, our goal is eventually to get video going, have a space, some soundproofing. To have the best sound quality possible and also, have some cool visuals. You could see us on YouTube. It'd be fun, right?
[Sara]: Uh… Yeah.
[Kyle]: So, people can see us, see us doing the podcast and just hopefully, create more reach, you know, for the podcast.
[Kyle]: So, we really ask you to continue-- We love it when you guys share the podcast, tell people about it. I mean, the numbers continue to grow all the time and we really just want to be a resource, to help families become-- The parents particularly, become the parents they want to be, right?
[Sara]: Yeah, we're walking it out and we're excited to walk it out with other people.
[Kyle]: And we really want to just equip parents, you know, with this different way of thinking of it, of just “who am I right now? Who am I as the parent and how do I become the parent I want to be?”, instead of just trying to fix the kid or fix that issue, you know?
[Kyle]: So, really, the whole point is-- So, please share the podcast, spread the word, put comments that are hopefully really positive and helpful and rate it; all those things are really, really helpful and we appreciate your feedback and we'd love for you to give more feedback to us. So, I hope the sound is great and I hope you're enjoying the podcast. Today we want to talk about the holidays, you know? Because this should be dropping, Sara, like the Monday before Thanksgiving, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, when I was thinking about what to talk about, because I feel like it's kind of a unique day before the whole holiday season starts to hit us, you know? Is all the work you and I have done personally to try to, you know, see the holidays differently. Because I think initially, what I hear from a lot of families and I think how we approach it was-- You almost feel like-- I hate to use the word “victim”, but I almost feel like you're just-- You're helpless, you know? To the patterns that families get into around the holidays, you know? There's a lot of Joy, a lot of fun around them, right? But there's also a lot of pressure, you know, to go places, be places, do things, you know? Have the kids act a certain way, you're with-- You're creating, you know, you're really messing up your normal rhythms, you know? There's a lot of sugar, there's a lot of-- And so, there can be a lot of Joy, but a lot of frustration, you know?
[Kyle]: So, I wanted this podcast to kind of help equip parents, to kind of say “what kind of-- What do you want the holidays to be like?” and you get to decide that. You know, it's not something that's just-- That just happens to you, you know?
[Sara]: Right, right.
[Kyle]: I’m even thinking like, I remember initially when we first got married and we had to-- Well, we did, we didn't have to, but we chose to go visit each other's families for the holidays, you know? And yours and my family just did the holidays different, you know? Like, growing up, how were the holidays like for you?
[Sara]: They were a lot of fun, it was big long family time, food, games, just sort of an all-day event. Loved it.
[Kyle]: And you guys would spend all day like, you're talking like, as soon as you wake up--
[Sara]: Yeah, into the night.
[Kyle]: Into the night, right?
[Sara]: Yes
[Kyle]: And then, also Christmas was a blast, right? I know thanksgiving's right on the corner of Christmas, you had a lot of fun doing what?
[Sara]: Yeah, lots of extended family-- I just would say family time. We would just sit around playing games for hours and eating and talking and football games were on and it was just a lot of big family time.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and I remember in our family time, Thanksgiving was typically really great. We didn't have extended family around, so it was just my immediate family. But a lot of times, my parents were great about letting friends come over. When I was in college in particular, people from the wing-- Our college wing, on our dorm, they come over and my mom would feed 20-30 people, you know? It was a fantastic time. Christmas was also fun, but it was a little different, you and I had different experiences in that, you know? I remember Christmas. Christmas was fun, but it was stressful, because money was tight for us and money was tight for you too, but--
[Sara]: Right, yeah. It wasn't about the presents.
[Kyle]: Yeah, for us, we did want certain presents and there was a stress about the inability to buy those presents or get the presents we wanted. Decorating was not fun for us, typically the way decorating happened, was somebody in the family would say something about putting up a tree and then they'd be like “that's what we're doing today! Let's get the tree down!” and it was like “what!? I have other plans today, I don't want to do this!” and so, I remember when we first got married, we felt that tension about the holidays. Because you'd be like “let's put the tree up” and I’d be like “what!? Oh my gosh!”.
[Sara]: Yeah. “Thanksgiving was yesterday, it's time for the tree”.
[Kyle]: And I’d be like “can we put that off a few more weeks? I don't want to do all that”.
[Sara]: Yeah, no, I was shocked. Like “what!? You don't enjoy this!?”.
[Kyle]: I know and it was fun to see you so excited, but I just felt tired and I just wanted to take a nap.
[Sara]: I remember you would sit on the couch; I decorated the tree.
[Kyle]: That's right.
[Sara]: Anyway, until this day you don't do a whole lot of tree stuff. Scars.
[Kyle]: It was, it was and it's because it actually, I do get tired because it was typically on a Saturday and then, my dad or some or my mom would get inspired, we'd have to get the tree down from the attic and it was a whole day ordeal that I had not planned on, I was not prepared for. I typically was wanting to play some video games that day or go-- So, it was very much like “oh--”, it was just such a like, hindrance to what I wanted to do and so, it is fun to watch you get so excited about it, you know? But another thing we noticed was because we do things different, you know, my family doesn't have these all day things, you know? So, my family, typically we got together for Christmas or something or even Thanksgiving, it was like a two to three hour thing and then we go on and do other stuff on our own with our families, right? Whereas I’d go to your house and you wanted to spend all day there and I was like “how--?”
[Sara]: “You're bewildered”.
[Kyle]: “When are we leaving? Why are we here all day?”.
[Sara]: “What’s happening?”
[Kyle]: And it was just so-- So, there was--
[Sara]: Very different expectations.
[Kyle]: There was that tension, but then always anytime you're with family, there is like, you notice things about your family that you love and things that are frustrating and so, initially there was even going from my family or your family, there would be those normal talks and I think every listener can relate to, that we would leave that time and they'd be like “what's going on with that person?” or “why are they doing that?” or “why they keep doing that?” or “I’m kind of frustrated they keep saying that, you know?”.
[Kyle]: And there would be those kinds of conversations and I remember before we ever had kids-- This is where this started. We thought “wait a second, we don't want our kids doing this to us”.
[Sara]: Right. It's just not helpful, right?
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, we thought “if we're leaving Thanksgiving or Christmas and then we're spending--”
[Sara]: “And we got a laundry list we're going through”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, we’re going through all these things that we're critiquing or being critical about and lots of it, is because we're also middle kids. So, they'd be like “we feel kind of helpless to change things because it's always kind of-- The older siblings get more say”. So, it was always like, we would slip into that middle kid role of like “why is it going to be this way? Why can't we just change it this way? Oh, you know--” We feel so--
[Sara]: “Nobody’s listening to me”.
[Kyle]: Yes, exactly. So, there would be all these complaints and we would commiserate with each other, but we started picture like “what if our kids were in the back seat listening to all of this talk?”. Eventually we're going to raise kids who think that's what the holidays is about. It's about what it isn't, it's about how it's not good enough, it's about how I wish family would do it differently or change differently. It's like this sense of helplessness to like “I’m just a victim to this whole thing” and like “I have to go do this”. You have to go to that family, you have to do this or say that or you know, and it really was disempowering and we just thought “we want to raise kids who leave thinking about what it was”.
[Kyle]: And left with gratitude.
[Sara]: Yeah, that's the word that came to my mind too is, what-- I mean, “I’m gonna choose what I make of this moment”. I can sit here thinking “oh, well, I didn't like this and I didn't like that and--” or I could go “wow! I love this moment, I love that moment” and we know we've talked about this before, what you focus on, you get more of. What do I want to focus on? Do I want to focus on my happy feelings and the moments I love and just be filled with gratitude for this moment or not? I get to choose.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, then I also-- I like that quote. I also like what I have to-- What I offer to others is a gift to myself, right? And so, if I’m going-- I remember what you and I tried to do, once again this before we had kids, but it was us intentionally trying to change the intent that we had going to the holidays and so, we both decided “hey, you know, instead of like, being upset about what it isn't, let's pick one or two of our family members and just go love them and just spend that time--” The whole intent is to just love that family member and then whenever we would leave, I actually really enjoyed my time. Whether it's at my family’s or your family’s and we come home be like-- The whole conversation was how good those conversations went, you know? Because the intent was to grow something good, rather than be upset about something bad that I didn't like, right?
[Sara]: Because there was tons of good.
[Kyle]: Yes, of course.
[Sara]: And we could just focus on those little nitpicky things that were irritating us or not and we just decided that's not what we want to do, that's not going to be a lot of fun for us.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I want to hit that point. What we realized before we had kids, so I’m glad we started it then is, we are always modeling to our kids what we want the holidays to look like.
[Kyle]: They're looking to us, they're taking their cues from us, you know? “Is this going to be a time of stress? Is this going to be a time of joy? Is this going to be a time of gratitude? Is this going to be a time of judgment and frustration?”, right? “Are we just a victim to this time period or is it something I always have the power to change and create?”, you know? And that's-- I want to-- Once I realized that, then I go “okay, how do I want the holidays to look? What do I want to grow?”, you know? “What do I want us as a family to have intent going into this time?”, you know? So, we then started thinking and I’d love every listener to do this, is just to notice that, how are you approaching the holidays with your kids? Do they feel like this is a time that they're choosing to enjoy? Is a time that there's-- They have to enjoy, they have to like? Are they just being dragged along? You know, and then the culmination is they finally get gifts, so it's all worth it, you know? On Christmas or is it something they're co-creating with you?
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, that was something I really-- When we think about our family legacies or something, I really give a lot of credit to my mom, who we didn't have a lot of money and sometimes things were really-- We were struggling and my mom would come alongside us and really create those. It was beautiful and wonderful and exciting and warm and loving and I really credit her with kind of handing down that legacy of shaping the holidays, regardless of-- There's going to be-- There's going to be challenges. It could be a family member, it could be a circumstance and there's going to be challenges and you actually have the power, you're not victim to all those things, but you actually have some power there to step in and affect that moment and create that moment and I just appreciate her, you know, handing down that legacy and then, the ability to then look at our family and go “how do we want to shape the holidays? What are my expectations on the holidays?”. I think that's a big part. “What am I thinking is going to happen? How realistic is that? How can I impact or even move in that direction, if that's the direction I want to go?”. Like, we wanted to have really fun conversations and love on our family, so we intentionally move in that direction.
[Sara]: And so, I think part of it is just thinking “how do I want to move and what direction do I want? And how can we as a family create that?”. We can go into that space and not that you can just, make it what you want. You're not in control of everything, but you can impact it.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah. Well, I like that, I’m thinking of that quote of “be the change you want to see in the world”. So, like you're saying, the whole reason why there was frustration about how the holidays were, was because there's a better way we wanted it to be and so, but what we were doing leaving and just griping about it and complaining about it, was we were saying “oh, it can't be that way, look how it isn't that way”. Instead of listening to that thing and going “well, how would I rather it be?” and was I participating in making it what it has been or was “how am I participating on making it something better?”.
[Kyle]: And I think especially with the holidays, it can be frustrating, because you want it to change like that, real quick, but it really is you're looking at the longer legacy. You may never completely change the way your family has always done it, right? And maybe that's not the point, the point is for you to start adding some more healthy components that you want to be a part of it or just even other components. Not even healthy or unhealthier, but other components that you want your kids to value and see, right? And that's the legacy, you know?
[Sara]: Understand how are you going to show up.
[Kyle]: Yeah, it's good. Well, and then I liked how you said your mom changing that story, right? So, I was thinking the holidays are such a great way to reflect and say it's a great opportunity to work on the stories we are believing about family, you know? Work on the legacies that we are leaving our kids. I think Thanksgiving and Christmas in particular are really great opportunities to say “what do our kids like--?” For instance, like you want our kids-- I mean, this is a good example. You want them when it's time to decorate for Christmas and by the way, you're doing a great job of this, you want them to be excited. When you say “hey, it's time to put the tree up”, all the kids go “yay!”, right? So, none of the kids at this point are going “oh my gosh. Well, you know--”, like how I felt at times, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, it's cool how I’m watching them feed off of your enthusiasm, you know? And I’m not sitting back, I’m not a curmudgeon. I do make some curmudgeon jokes, you know?
[Sara]: You do.
[Kyle]: Especially when you try to play Christmas all year round.
[Sara]: No, I take out June, May--
[Kyle]: Okay, okay. Yeah, sure. So, when you try to do that, I do make some comments about that, but I realize that is more what I’d rather them have. I don't want them to be all grumpy during Christmas, you know? So, I love-- I love that you're giving-- But that's how we are-- It's not that my parents did something bad or that kind of stuff, it's just “oh, I’d rather it look like this” and then I’m going “Cool”. Sara, you take the lead on that, I’m gonna try to grow and change throughout the years. I may never reach your enthusiasm, right? Because I don't have the same experience in my body as you do, right?
[Kyle]: But the kids will and the kids will have that experience, you know? So, if there are-- You know, listeners, I just-- If you think about what are the stories that you wish you could pass on your kids about the holidays, what are the legacies you would like to become when they're someday adults talking about that, is it the same old stuff you're complaining about or is it something new and fresh that you're growing in that family? Are you like-- I would even love to-- You know, I remember something particular that we did with the kids of just when we went to my family or your family, there's specific skills we wanted them to have, right?
[Kyle]: We wanted to practice self-control; you know? The ability to wait and watch other people open gifts, right? And to not be thinking about “when's my next gift?”, you know?
[Kyle]: I’m gonna wait and enjoy that gift and we would have these talks with the kids on the way to Christmas. The second one was gratitude, you know? We would tell the kids “No one owes you a gift, okay? No one has to buy you a gift and even if you open a gift and that gift is not something you like or want, you don't have to fake it. Like, you don't have to fake it. What we want you to do is realize that gift is about saying ‘I love you’”.
[Sara]: Yes, it's not about that particular thing, it is about “wow, somebody loved me, somebody went out and got this and they didn't need to or have to, but they cared enough to do this for me and even if that's what I’m grateful for, that's bigger than the present”. Whatever it is, whether you like it or not, somebody caring and going through that effort for you is [Unintelligible]
[Kyle]: So, even then, we didn't want our kids faking it and being like “oh, this is so great”, but I don't think you have to fake gratitude that somebody thought of you.
[Sara]: Cared about you, right.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, what the gift is, even it's the best gift in the world or the worst, they thought about you and so, go give them a hug or say thank you or whatever you're wanting to do in that moment. So, there was self-control, there was gratitude, there was also this ability to like, not just gorge on your gifts, but like “take your gifts, go around talk to the family. This is a limited time; we don't get to see all them like this”. So, even though the gifts are fun, let's also focus on talking to them and then, we would model that--
[Sara]: Yeah, we’re there for the people.
[Kyle]: Yes, we're there for them, they are the gift, you know? So, a lot of those discussions happen beforehand, because that’s stuff, we intentionally want our kids to have in their bodily experience about the holidays.
[Sara]: Yeah. I think it's thinking about that bigger picture “what do we want to happen in this moment?”. We talked about “what do I wish this moment was for?”, but I think we need to be very aware of our expectations. Most of our frustrations, most of our upset feelings are gonna be because I had an expectation and then that didn't come. My child wasn't grateful or my child threw a bunch of tantrums or they just sat on the couch on their phone the whole time. Think about that ahead of time and prepare-- Have those conversations with your children. Have a conversation with each other “what's this going to look like? How are we going to shape this moment?” and just know going in, so you can have-- You can be prepared for that, so you can start intentionally, not just when you're in the moment “hey, get off your phone!”. Try to do that ahead of time. You can't always, but as much as you can, to prepare and have those conversations and model that with your kids.
[Kyle]: Yeah, I love that you said that, because I think that is besides the whole family drama that tends to go on, where people maybe don't look forward to some of the things around Thanksgiving or Christmas--
[Sara]: Some dynamics, yeah.
[Kyle]: Within your own family, with your own kids, a lot of the frustration is-- And I want-- As listeners are hearing this, think of all those things that you get frustrated. “So, every year this happens or every year we do--”, it doesn't need to happen every year, you know? So, what Sara-- What you're suggesting, Sara, is knowing those expectations in advance and then setting your kids up and setting yourself up for success, right?
[Kyle]: Setting yourself up. You know, I like-- That's why we had those conversations, because I remember as a kid being frustrated in myself and in my siblings, how much we just “oh--”, I couldn't wait till my gift, you know? And I’d be annoyed at every gift my brother and sister was opening up. So, I knew that about myself and I didn't want that story to continue, you know? I wanted my kids to know this and I also remember that tension. I’m sure every listener can relate to this, that tension of getting a gift you didn't really like and then faking that gratitude on your face and so, I was like “I don't want that and I don't want to just spend the day--” Because that goes back to the codependent conversation we had in the last podcast, is like “am I faking it so that person thinks I actually like the gift?”. No, the point isn't the gift, you know? The point is that they gave me something because they care about me, right? So, I’m thankful for that. So, I love that.
[Kyle]: I’m thinking also what I like is a tradition that we didn't do as kids, that you-- That we adopted was having breakfast in the morning before we open gifts.
[Kyle]: Because for us, opening gifts was the main dish and we had talked as a couple of “well, I actually don't want that to be the main dish, I want it to be like this is a special time for us. Faith is important, so we want faith to be a big part of that morning, but it's also just family and us slowing down. If we don't get to the gifts till 10 o'clock, that's fine”.
[Kyle]: You know? And what's neat about it and listeners, we're being honest with you, the kids are okay with it. They actually-- I mean, they want the gifts, but it surprised me, because I would get up at 6 a.m. and be like “gifts! gifts! gifts! gifts! gifts! gifts!” and I-- But I didn't want that for the kids, I mean, I didn't want the like, you know, you hear all these classic stories of parents being upset because the kids are, you know, waking them up real early and they can't get in and then you've got the teenager who's sleeping in and everyone's upset at the teenager. I just want us all to be able to wake up, have a great night's sleep, have a really great breakfast, which is also going to put them in a better mood and you make a great breakfast too. But then, let's get into the gifts around nine or ten o'clock and the kids know that's the expectation, you know?
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's kind of what I grew up with, so I didn't grow up with the wake up early and tear the presents open.
[Sara]: But it was something that as I got older and I learned how other people did it, I was just really grateful for that.
[Kyle]: Well, and something else that we did that you and I decided to do, neither one of our families did this, was a Christmas Eve tradition. So, and the Christmas Eve tradition, we love the Christmas Eve services and so once again, faith is an element of that for us. But I didn't want to keep doing our church every Christmas Eve, you know? You and I both have traveled the world and we've seen other ways faith is done and so, we thought it was really exciting to go visit other churches on Christmas Eve, you know? And go see how other people did the faith that we have in different ways, you know? And that's been a beautiful thing the kids love to do, they're always excited about what new church we're going to visit in Tulsa, because there's a lot of churches in Tulsa and go visit a new way of exploring this holiday, you know? At that particular church and then we'd go out to eat and then we open up, you know, a gift [Unintelligible]
[Sara]: Yeah, look at lights and I think it's-- It was and whatever this looks like for listeners, it was a way of Christmas can easily become about the gifts and materialism; I think we all know that. But Christmas gives us an opportunity to focus on other people, to give to other people, to notice the beauty and in a moment and in a season, it's just different than any other holiday. In that way, this one really highlights that opportunity and so, it was a way to Christmas morning definitely involves presence and it was just a way to easily put some focus on other areas.
[Sara]: Because presence is Christmas morning, so now let's do that and that was important to us and I think, for listeners you can just think about “what's important to us? For our family? And let's create that”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, if you've never done that as a couple, you know, if you're married and a couple ever sat down talk “what are the important things I want to keep, you know, from Thanksgiving and Christmas? What are some things I’d like to do differently?”, you know? And I don't know, maybe lots of you have had those conversations. I think a lot of couples have not had those. But we hope in this conversation, you're feeling the freedom to no longer just be sucked into the holiday season, you know? You don't have to be sucked into materialism; you don't have to be sucked into all the drama in the family. Like you and your spouse or you as a single parent, you and your kids get to decide what this time is about, you get to co-create the holidays and the importance of that, is to rewrite some of these stories that you wish were different. You get to change these legacies that have been left for you and also pass on the ones that you really want to keep and that were beautiful, you know?
[Sara]: And I think the nice part about that intentionality, is there's some practical things of “oh, let's make sure they're not too tired and not hungry and we're eating a lot of sugar and we're staying up late and our schedules out the window and we're rushing around trying to capture every Christmas moment we can” and with that intentionality, you can choose “okay, let's set this aside. Oh, the kids are gonna be really tired, so let's be intentional about shaping this moment this way” and it just lays it all out and you can release the pressure to maybe do everything. You're not making the perfect magical holiday, you're just “what is this going to look like for us? And let's create that”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I love it you're saying they have some grace in those moments, but also set those expectations and then give the support needed. So, I guess that's two things I would say with this holiday is. Just think about with your kids “how do we want to co-create these things?”, you know? Sit down and talk to them, what's things that they've really enjoyed about the holyday, what’s some things that they wish we all did different, you know? And the more involved they are in that process, the more committed they are to that overall vision. But then next, set the expectations about the skills you're wanting to teach them throughout the holidays, really the things you're wanting to pass on. You know, really let them know that, be clear about that, so they understand how to be successful in these moments. Because there is a lot of change, a lot of craziness, a lot of sugar, a lot of just excitement and boredom and so on and so forth, you know? A lot of travel and everything.
[Kyle]: So, first of all, we want to say Happy Thanksgiving.
[Sara]: Yeah, Happy Thanksgiving.
[Kyle]: I hope you and your family have a fantastic time. I hope this time with your kids is a time filled with gratitude. That you get to look at their sweet little faces, because I’m sure they all have sweet little faces and you just really even for a moment, even in all the business, you get to for a moment just remind yourself of the gratitude of being their parents and the fact that they're yours, which is so great and that these families no matter how dysfunctional or functional they are, they are yours as well and I hope you feel empowered then to create a new holiday season that is something that you wanted, you and your spouse want for your kids and it's going to be cool. Because then hopefully someday 20 years from now, your kids are having holiday seasons, coming from your house and they're not complaining or griping about it, but they're saying all the ways they got to love on you and be with you and how grateful they are for that time. So, I hope this holiday season starting with Thanksgiving is going to be kicked off with a lot of joy and a lot of gratitude and we just wish you a fantastic Thanksgiving.
[Sara]: Yeah, thanks for listening.