Before and after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I get calls from folks who are agonizing over whether or not to invite someone who has been terrible to them and/or others - whether it's a friend, parent, or child. Generally, the explanations about the problems with that friend, parent or child are horrendous! Ferocious drug abuse, violence, severe betrayals....they call because they want the "pretty picture" for the holidays regardless of the dramatically ugly issues that would have to be ignored.
I tell them all - each and every one - to make the holidays meaningful and not fantasy recreations. I tell them to go to orphanages or senior citizen homes, children's hospitals, cancer wards, and make someone smile, instead of agonizing over fantasies unmet that frankly, should stay unmet.
Here's an example of what I mean: Kansas City, Missouri has a Secret Santa, Part 2. Secret Santa Part 1, Larry Stewart, gave away more than $1 million to strangers each December, mostly in $100 bills. He died in 2007 at the age of 58, and another (still anonymous) Secret Santa has taken up the reins.
The new Secret Santa walks about with an elf - another tall man in a red cap - who asks people questions, and then provides them with the gift. The recipients? A police officer with terminal cancer, a homeless man pushing a rickety old shopping cart, an 81 year old woman who had recently told her 27 grandchildren that she wouldn't be able to afford Christmas gifts, a 32 year old mother of two who lost her job because of the recession, and a woman whose husband and children died, and who has been having a tough time paying for the funerals.
Charitable donations have dropped off drastically, because people are watching every penny due to the sorry economic situation of the nation with 10% unemployment and taxes, taxes, taxes. When Secret Santa was asked about continuing his gifts during these tough economic times, he said "The recession, unemployment....this is the time you don't want to stop. You don't want to back off."
Giving to the needy and less fortunate is always in season, especially when it is more difficult to do. That is what gives it meaning.
So, fuhgeddabout your disappointment that your family isn't all sweet and adorable. Kindness in giving creates love.