Dear Ann Cannon • My little family and I are returning to Salt Lake for a visit this Christmas and wow! It suddenly seems like we are celebrities, because everyone wants us at their event. This makes for an exhausting holiday season. How do we graciously decline the many overlapping invitations? Also, everyone starts their event at 7 p.m. Do they forget that kids have to go to bed?
— Home for the Holidays
Dear Home for the Holidays • First thing — WELCOME BACK!
Second thing — ain’t it grand that you have so many people who actually want to see you? This is way better than being that person who makes others want to flee from the room, screaming and ripping their hair out whenever you and yours show up.
Still. You’re right. It’s hard when everybody wants a piece of you. It gets even trickier when people think they deserve a piece of you. I remember when my brother and his family used to visit from New York. I always looked forward to seeing them and thought I had more of a claim on their time because hello! I was THE SISTER! And sisters should count more than friends, obv.
Looking back on it now, I realize how difficult things must have been for my brother and his wife as they tried to make all of us happy.
Which brings me to you and your situation.
My advice is probably a little too late for this Christmas season, but in the future you might consider doing one of the following three things.
1. Don’t tell anybody you’re coming home. That’s right. Just steal into town like a thief in the night. The only problem with this approach is that you may have to wear a disguise if you decide to go out.
2. Identify somebody in your group of family and friends who would be willing to host an open house for you while you’re in here. Then invite people over whom you’d like to see and vice versa.
3. Be upfront and kindly explain that while you’d love, love, love to eat Christmas dinner with everybody, there just aren’t enough of you to go around. Promise people you’ll eat dinner with them next year (if they’re kind enough to ask you again) and then keep that promise. If you have the energy and resources, do something that will make them feel noticed. Swing by their place with a card or candy or flowers.
Will these approaches satisfy everybody? Probably not. People’s hearts are especially tender during the holiday season and it’s easy for feelings to get hurt. Remember you really can’t make everybody happy, and that’s not your job anyway. Just do your best to be gracious and fair, and then give people the space to work through their own feelings of disappointment.
Meanwhile, I have something to say to those of us who have family visiting from out of town. Sure, we’re within our rights to want their time and attention. But let’s not make things hard on them and on ourselves, OK? Because who needs all that at Christmas time?
Dear People Who Read This Column • When Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce asked a year ago if I would be interested in writing an advice column, I had no idea what an interesting assignment this would turn out to be. So now, because I am feeling a little tender myself today, I want to thank you for making this such a fascinating ride. Thank you for your questions, your comments and your advice. Here’s wishing you and the people you love the happiest of holidays with hopes for a rewarding new year.
— Ann Cannon