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Ask Rene: How Do I Handle A Holiday Horror?

Hello Rene,

I need a bit of advice. Please! I am African American and my husband of eight years, is Caucasian. Back in November of 2008, all HELL broke loose. My husband is from a small family and they aren’t particularly close. We get together for Christmas, Thanksgiving and the occasional special event.

At Thanksgiving dinner, one of his cousins announced that President-elect Obama was a Muslim and that everyone needed to take their money out of banks because he was going to take it all. Needless to say, I had to break her down and put an end to that ridiculousness. I’m not going to have my kids sitting around and listening to that mess.

What is really sad is that there is a very uncomfortable atmosphere now. No one talks like they used to when we are together, when we do come together. The kids don’t get invited to one another’s birthdays anymore and there is definitely a wedge in the family. There are two camps now, the ones who think we are in end days and those of us who realize that having President Obama in the White House is just that – another president in the White House.

What do you suggest I do to try to bring peace back into the family? My husband and his mother have been GREAT through this whole ordeal. And so have his aunt and uncle, the crazy liberal ones! However, the conservative wing of the family is relatively quiet and polite now.

Should I just be content with quiet, polite and very little contact? Help! The holidays are coming up and the kids are 7, 7, 6 and 5.

I would hope that the adults could get over racial, cultural, religious and political difference for the sake of the kids.How can we heal the wounds and have a Happy Thanksgiving?


Dreading Turkey Day



Dear DTD:

THIRD RAIL ALERT! Why don’t people get this? Holidays and hot issues do NOT go well together! Yet year after year, turkey is served with a side of indigestion brought on by people trying to solve world problems or change opposing views.  You asked what to do from here. As I see it, these are your choices.

LIMIT TIME/EXPOSURE: If the “more conservative” members of the family are going to be there, don’t make the holiday an all-day affair. I’m not advocating you be rude and swoop in for turkey and leave right after the last bite of cherry pie. But there’s already bad blood there and I’m sure hanging around for hours on end, possibly with booze involved, won’t help the situation. Come in, be polite, talk about ANYTHING BUT politics. Be kind and cordial, then get the hell out of there.

IGNORE COMMENTS YOU DON’T AGREE WITH: The cousin who brought up politics in the first place showed she had no home training; don’t do anything that would have her thinking the same of you. Again, it amazes me that people don’t understand the lost art of polite conversation. For far too many people, the filter between their brain and mouth is broken and they do their best imitation of a petulant two-year-old, blurting out thoughts as soon as they’re formed.  You’re a smart woman, you don’t need to converse with people like that; they can’t keep up. So when they verbally upchuck, smile politely and change the subject. Unless, of course, this is your house; then say what you want.

FOCUS ON ULTIMATE GOAL: What is the goal of a family get together? For everyone to catch up on each others lives, to share some good food and fellowship and then be refreshed and recharged until you meet again. This is not the time for harsh words and should not be confused with a voter registration drive. You want the adults to get past their differences for the sake of the kids? You can only control your own actions so model the behavior you want your children to emulate. While I think the cousin was wrong to say what she did in that setting, by “breaking her down” you missed an opportunity to show your children how to handle it when someone says something you don’t agree with. Had that been me, I probably would have shrugged my shoulders and said something like, “We’ll see. Pass the creamed spinach please.” Then I would have allowed her to keep talking; eventually everyone, children included, would have seen the ridiculousness of her statements.

But you know what I think? I think that woman, for whatever reason, knew your political leanings and was trying to bait you into an argument, a trap you walked right into. Be smart and make sure you don’t do that next time.

Good luck, mommy!

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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