Many of us will be spending time with family and loved ones this holiday season. The joys of seeing grandchildren, being with our own kids, perhaps traveling to exciting places, experiencing the rituals our families have created, and feeling warmth and love at this time can all be heartening.
However, some of us agers feel anxiety about these family times. Too many expectations, the pressure to give gifts, spending money we don’t have, preparing elaborate meals and the exhaustion of travel really sap our energy during this season of dark and cold. It feels more natural to be quiet, go inward and enjoy some solitude; quite the opposite of the frantic pace of the holidays.
If we are going to be spending time with family, it may be a good time to approach them with some of our decisions about the end of our lives. My kids were in complete denial that I would ever die, so every time I see them, I mention something about it. Little things – cemetery plots, recent articles I’ve read about death with dignity, what elders really want when it’s time to die. Gradually, they are starting to talk about it with me. Humor is important, and we often laugh about what the future could hold for all of us.
A friend has written up all her advanced directives and packaged them beautifully for her kids as holiday gifts! How creative! The kids may not appreciate this now, but they will eventually see how thoughtful it really is.
Another issue is that grandparents often feel unable to connect with grandchildren. So many kids are now hooked up to different electronic screens, it’s difficult to get in a moment to play. So, “If I can’t beat ’em, I join ’em!” They often love teaching me how to work the ups and downs of the games, and then we can make cookies or play together later.
Our adult kids often parent differently than we did. It’s difficult to know when to speak up or when to keep our mouths closed. It’s very important not to intervene and to respect their rights to make their own mistakes and learn from them. Their lives also seem so much faster-paced than mine, it’s hard to keep up.
Every generation has criticisms of the next generation. This temptation to judge them is easy to understand. We feel anxious about a future where our values and lifestyles have become obsolete. Will we still be relevant in 10 or 20 years?
Gifting can also be challenging. I am looking more at “my stuff” and doling it out to appropriate kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. A special painting by a long-lost aunt was a perfect wedding gift recently. I sent my grandmother’s crocheted table runner to a granddaughter with a jewelry box for her dresser. What a great way to simplify and downsize.
Whatever your holiday plans, make them joyous for yourselves, love the family no matter what and celebrate these times with open hearts and seasoned wisdom. Peace to all!
Martha McClellan has been a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus now to the other end of life, and has written the book, The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game. Reach her at [email protected].