Family Feuds

For the UAS Whalesong

Going home for the holidays – or at least for winter break – is something that most of us find ourselves doing every school year, whether we want to or not. There are plenty of great things about the holiday season, of course; the first and most obvious is that there’s no homework. And of course, there’s the free (or at least cheap) stuff, gift-giving, snow, holiday drinks like mint hot chocolate and eggnog, and spending time with your family! But in recent years, I’ve noticed an apparent trend. The longer you spend at college, the less time you can spend with your family without getting into an argument with one or more members. Sometimes this is fine; it’s just a little verbal spat, a minor disagreement, nothing huge. Other times it is a big deal, with one or more of you blowing up over a really controversial topic and doing everything short of throwing the kitchen table at each other. Part of this is because at school, you live and work and hang out with your friends, and your friends are naturally people who share your beliefs and points of view. You’re also formulating your own new opinions about the world and young adult life – opinions that might not align with those of your mom, dad, aunts or uncles, etc. And this is perfectly fine! Well, unless you’re a proponent of Communism or something. Then your parents are probably right to fight with you. But I’m just going to assume that you’re not, and give you some tips on how to survive the upcoming Thanksgiving (if you’re going home for it) and Christmas breaks.

I think one good rule of thumb, for both family and friends, is to not talk about politics. This is such a strong and emotionally-charged issue that it creates a weird conundrum – you only want to bring it up with people you’re really close to, but at the same time you want to remain close to those people. Save the politics for class discussions, where you have a professor to step in and change the topic if things get heated. I know it might be hard to do, what with the 2016 presidential election coming up and whatnot, but I would advise that your best course of action (should the topic come up) is to smile and wave. (The penguins in Madagascar knew what was up.) If you absolutely have to voice your opinion, just try to be as polite and nice about it as you can, and extricate yourself as quickly as possible. Of course, if you and your family thrive on political debate, feel free to ignore this advice entirely – but in my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience, that’s rarely the case.

You should also get ready for rules. During the school year, we get used to living our own lives and following our own schedules, and sometimes it’s hard to get back into the groove of living at home, even if it’s just for a month or so. At my house, for example, all-nighters are frowned upon, and due to limited internet strength it’s expected that if someone is trying to watch Netflix, no one else will be trying to use the internet in any other capacity at all. Sometimes it’s a little difficult for me to re-adjust myself to this routine, and it might be the same for you. I find that it helps to try and get yourself in the mindset of returning home before you even get there. For example, I used to drink a ton of soda, and before I went home for a break I would start decelerating on my soda intake so that I wouldn’t consume half of what my mom bought in one trip to the store. (Like I said, used to. I actually drink water now, like a human.)

Finally, just remember that you’re there on a holiday break! Enjoy yourself. Talk your mom into going to Starbucks and getting an overpriced festive drink with you. Drag your brother on a Christmas shopping expedition. Try making some of those recipes you’ve been accumulating on your baking board on Pinterest all semester. Take guilt-free naps in the knowledge that you have no homework you should be doing instead of sleeping. Go on a walk with your dog. Sure, going home can take it out of you sometimes – but in the end, remember that your family loves you and they want you there! And hey, at least they haven’t changed addresses and moved without telling you. My father told me that he and my mom were going to do that my freshman year, and now every time he’s late picking me up from the airport I have a subtle pervading anxiety that they’ve actually done it and I’ll have to hire a private detective to hunt them down. Thanks for that, Dad.

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