The inner conflict – are you a child or an adult when back home?
Here we are at the beginning of a new year with all our resolutions or affirmations firmly in place and we can look back at the last 10 days or so when many people went back to their family home to spend the festive period.
So, was it festive?
Was it as homely, warm and comforting as you imagined it would be when you were busy “lateral flow”ing in and “staying safe” so that you could mingle with your relatives guilt free?
Or could you not wait to leave to go back to the peace of your own home?
Every year we go through the same scenario with the build up to Christmas. It has such a hallowed status in most of our lives that everything is about the one day when everything just has to be perfect. We spend so much time and money preparing and drive ourselves crazy that we must have the best dressed tree, buy the best presents, make the most impressive, delicious meal that we forget that really, it should just be about getting the family together and enjoying each other’s company (ooh and maybe celebrating the birth of Jesus).
Instead, we put so much pressure on the details that so often, we end up spoiling the day and fighting with the very people that we were desperate to spend time with.
But let’s go back a step and look at what happens from the moment the family comes back together in the same house. Adult children come back from their own homes where they have managed to stay alive and look after themselves (and possibly others) for the rest of the year and, at some point before Christmas, they take up residence in their childhood bedrooms, often with partners and children and become unable to do the smallest task without being criticised or helped in some way.
This is because they are in their parents’ house (or their partner’s parents’ house – even worse), living by their rules.
Suddenly, they are no longer able to make their own decisions on what they do, what they eat, what time they get up – the list goes on.
Of course, if you have siblings, they are there too and before you know it, you have regressed to being 13 again and fighting with them over what to watch on TV, who's sitting in the best seat and whose turn it is to clear the table.
It has been described as “The Big Regression” by Lauren Bravo in the Stylist magazine and this is such an apt phrase. We regress to being a child and get so annoyed that we have regressed, but just can't help it – it seems to be innate.
So, what can we learn from this?
Firstly, we know we will do exactly the same again next year – it is traditional after all!
So, how can we make it better?
As parents but also as adult children?
Two very simple things:
1. Give each other space and don't expect to be doing stuff together all the time. We all need space from one another as, without it, we will suffocate each other so that, sadly, we yearn for it to be the day when the visitors (or we) leave, whenever that may be.
2. Learn the art of compromise for the short time you are together:
- As a parent, you have to acknowledge that your child has grown up and has their own way of doing things. When they are young, we encourage our kids to be independent, strong-minded and stand up for what they believe in but once they are back home, we tend to forget this and try and mold them back into what they used to be.
- As a child, you have to acknowledge that since you left home, your parents have found their own ways of doing things, their own routines and it is important that you try and fit in where you can.
It goes both ways.
If your mother or father asks you to clear something up, do it even if you feel it doesn’t need doing. If your child suggests another way of doing something, don’t take it as criticism but as a helpful suggestion.
Most of all, remember that we will just repeat the process next year but hopefully this time armed with the lessons of the previous one!
Good luck and now carry on with all those resolutions to eat less, exercise more, find a new job, change a relationship...
And if you need help sorting out how to make the change that you have decided you want, then speak to a life coach whose role it is to make space for you to talk and work through all the thoughts that you kept to yourself while tucking into a mince pie!