Christmas is a time of joy, giving, love..... but also of family bickering. Anyone out there who tells me their family never even has a whisper of dispute over the holiday period...well they're likely to be telling big fat fibs. Either that or their family is so emotionally repressed that all the negativity is stored inside their bodies, ready to explode one day in a huge, alienating war. (This is what I tell myself, anyway, in order to not feel like a horrible person)
My family get-togethers over Christmas are always a bit messy, as, like many others, I have divorced parents. This is not too much of a problem, though - just logistically a bit tricky sometimes.
It's more my sister-to-sister interactions that I find grate on me a bit. I feel guilty even writing this, but truth is like that - not always pleasant.
I am the eldest in my family. I guess I've always been a responsible, 'goody-goody' sort of person, as eldest kids often are. I find it hard to say no to anyone needing help, and will often overstretch myself to try to please everyone. I probably try to 'help' (also known as interfering) in situations where people want to be left alone, or don't need my advice or concern... it's a fault of mine. A strength of mine is that I'm fairly tough, and I don't quit easily.
My little sister is the baby of the family, and she is loving and straightforward - she doesn't analyse every social interaction like I do. She needs fewer people - she has a couple of close friends, but may go several weeks without talking to one of them... whereas I barely go a day without speaking to at least one of mine. I doubt if my sister would complain to someone about me - not because I'm perfect (ha!) but because she just takes me as I am, warts and all. I would like to be more accepting, like my Sis.
As the older sister, the older, hypercritical sister, I find my little sister frustrating when it comes to family duties. It's all about our different roles and personalities, I know. Here's an example.... when there is a family get-together to be organised, my married-with-no-kids Sis usually manages to weasel out of holding it at her place ( "I'm working that day" says Sis. Or, " I'm tired" or "We don't really have enough chairs here"). It drives me to distraction - firstly because in the past I have worked very long hours (pre-kids), and still managed to have everyone over here for a meal. Secondly, since having kids I have continued to entertain family and I know now that managing a function with a small baby and 2-yr-old is WAY harder than having people over when you're just a bit weary from work. You do these things, though, because you love your family, and you want to be with them.
Anyway, in a typical scenario, Sis drifts over to our house, takes a seat on the back deck, stretches her feet up onto a chair and moans, "I'm beat!", as I chop salad in the kitchen with one child asking for a drink and another calling from the bathroom for me to help turn the tap on. Do you hear my resentment here? Is it practically setting your computer screen alight? (yes, I am a mean ol' big sister all right)
You may ask why I don't talk to my sister about my feelings.. the short answer is that I have tried to, gently. I don't believe I have a right to be too hard on her about this when she puts up with me and my flaws. I don't want to upset her, or make her feel unloved. So I've talked about how I sometimes feel like I do more of the 'family duties'. Sis has taken the criticism quite well (which I know I wouldn't have), but has basically told me that often I make a martyr out of myself, and that she doesn't want to be like that. Which certainly has some truth - I sometimes do take on too much, and then feel overwhelmed. But life to me is all about people - being with them, talking to them, helping them, or being helped by them. So I choose overinvolved over underinvolved any day. Oh, and next time Sis comes over (hmm, that will be Christmas Day, at our place!), I'm going to call her in, tell her The Martyr has died, and put her to work chopping salad.
In the end, I realise Sis is not 'wrong', but nor am I - we're just different people with different ways of living. Which is probably the root of my frustration - she's my precious, adored sister, my flesh-and-blood - so why isn't she more like me?!!