Childrearing

Holiday Calendar Smackdown: When Family Schedules Collide, Everyone Better Watch Out

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Gingerbread Men FightingI’ve been told that my family is a little intense. On a typical week, I talk to my dad everyday and see both my parents and my in-laws at least once. Not a month goes by without both sides having a large family get together, with all of my husband and I’s siblings and their kids. A very large part of my social life is dedicated to my extended family, and that’s just the way I like it.

However, during the holiday season, our family’s enthusiasm for group activities can get a little out of hand. And the competition for prime weekend time-slots reaches an all-time high. In fact, filling the holiday calendar has become such an event that it now necessitates its own get together, simply for planning purposes. No, I’m really not joking. On each side of the family, I grab my trusty weekly planner, where I still write down every appointment, playdate and birthday, and we set dates and times for all of our holiday activities.

If you’re asking yourselves how many holiday events a family needs, let me give you a short list of our 2011 commitments. There’s my personal favorite, chopping down our own Christmas tree. Of course, then we need to help the kids make their own ornaments and trim the trees. We decorate gingerbread houses and bake Christmas cookies. In fact, we have two full days of baking. There are holiday shopping trips, though that’s only for the ladies. We squeeze in a couple community activities, like the lighting ceremony downtown and our city ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. We make Advent calendars and attend Christmas Eve Mass.

Mind you, all of these things take place before gifts are given or presents opened. This is all in anticipation of the big day, which actually turns into a big week, considering the amount of time it takes to attend each gift exchange.

When it’s all said and done, I have at least three planned events for each week from now through New Years. But naming all those events was the easy part. Agreeing on dates and times with seven other women who all have their own calendars is exceedingly more difficult. There’s a whole lot of passive-aggressive tension involved is sacrificing a Sunday afternoon sleigh ride for a Friday evening tree decorating.

My husband and I have always felt thankful for our close families, except those tense hours when I’m trying to negotiate a shopping trip that ends before 5pm so that we can race to another house for gingerbread decorating in the evening. We’re happy that we have so many people to share our holidays with, except the day after a weekend-long baking marathon that includes hundreds of pounds of fudge, candy and cookies. In those moments, I love my family dearly, but I kind of wish that it wasn’t so easy for us all to get together any time we please.

In general, my immediate family and my in-laws get along really well. We even combine some of our holiday traditions to include all 30 of us. It’s a lot of love and my husband, daughter and I feel very lucky for it. But our family’s enthusiasm is demanding, in both time and energy. So much so that my husband and I might have to start one more family tradition, a day of the week to stay home and cuddle up with our little girl and a couple classic Christmas movies. After all, the best part about having children is creating new memories for them, right?