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Holiday Dysfunctional Throwdown

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It's that time of year again for my husband and me to play "Who Has the Crazier Family?!"

holiday dysfunctional family

Katie Wisdom Weinstein: I know this is nothing new for families. Perhaps because we do not pick our parents or siblings, we are safe to scream "CRAZY!" and do not have to own up to any of the blame. The "Extended-Family Circus" is alive and well.

My husband and I have parents who all remarried after the first go-round. This means more parents, siblings and grandparents to go around. Now, we also combat age, retirement, mortgages and money. Even on a good day, this is a recipe for disaster. Throw in a couple of stepfamily scenarios, a little paranoia, a few adult-kids who do not want to grow up and several old brewing frustrations, and you have the game!

It's a pretty even throwdown this year. We got right into December with a stack of crazy cards from both sides. What is it about the holidays? Do we really expect so much from our loved ones that we drive each other to Crazytown? We could call this game "D&D," for "Drama and Dysfunction." It IS a role-playing game, but not the fun kind. This is the kind where you revert to absurd behavior and childish ways when you are in the same room together.

Before you begin to think we are evil, toxic, ungrateful or thankless, please know that we love our families. They helped us to be the people we are today. We can have a really good time, even at the holidays, but there might be a lot of eye-rolling and deep breathing to get through. Our kids think it is all mildly amusing, because they don't own any of THIS family craziness. They are busy writing their own rules for the future game they will play with us!

There are plenty of the typical stepfamily scenarios in this family, and now that we are grown up, one would think we have matured. Oh, let me burst that bubble. The only difference might be that now we do not drag each other over the shag carpet for a good rug burn, or throw tennis balls at each other's heads. We have become more clever. To really master and continue the great dysfunction, we have evolved to "communication manipulation," like a bad game of telephone. Add an ability to drive our points home with a sharp dagger, and you have Christmas.

The holiday chaos is heightened with members of the family who are getting on in age. We all promise to not make our families crazy when we get older, but who are we kidding? With age might come wisdom, but in our family, it also comes with a dose of absurd accusations and childish acts of paranoia. The telephone becomes a tool of torture. Should I answer the ringing phone? Will it be a familiar voice on the other end of the line, saying, "Did you hear what so and so said to me the other day?"

As members of this large, crazy family, we cannot quit and we cannot be fired. We have to keep playing the Dysfunctional Family Throwdown game until the bitter end. We will make our usual New Year's resolution to be nice to our family and to avoid gossip and backstabbing. It works for three months or so, and then it is time for the spring holidays. Let the games continue!


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