Navigating family gatherings as the year comes to a close
As incessant notifications on parents’ phones across the nation discuss the location and happenings of festive family gatherings, the mayhem of the extended family group just hits differently. For many people, family gatherings are an experience to both look forward to and dread. Although meeting with close family members can be enjoyable, conversing with certain relatives poses a challenge that many people would rather not face.
As with all things, family gatherings can have positive and negative aspects.
“[Family gatherings] make me feel happy because I feel like I have people supporting me,” Joan Huang (10) says. “But they always ask me about my classes and call me really [dark-skinned]. They’re like, ‘Why isn’t [your skin] lighter?’ It gets annoying because they’re always starting conversations about the same things that I don’t really want to talk about, but I still love [my family].”
Sometimes, the unpleasantness of family gatherings comes from simply not speaking often enough to create close relationships.
Jane Doe (11) explains, “I’m super close to my dad’s side so gathering is super fun, but with my mom’s [side], it gets super awkward because we’re practically strangers that see each other every other year. Like, I started [my English extra credit] on Christmas. I was that bored.”
For Bianca Dong (12), family gatherings are enjoyable besides unwarranted questions.
“[I like] the red envelopes. The food, I guess? A lot of it is homemade. The best type of family gathering is one where you can bond over food and drink, but I don’t really like any [other parts]. The questions like ‘How’s school?’ [and] ‘Where do you want to go for college?’ are the worst.”
When questions like these come up, they can be difficult to avoid.
“My family’s pretty big so if I hate someone, I include a nearby person into the conversation and gradually fade out. Basic social skills,” Jane Doe laughs. “Or I pretend like I have something to do like cook or tend to the kids.”
However, even these tactics can’t create a sure escape route from the interaction.
“In the worst-case scenario, I change the conversation to something generic, like school, so that I don’t have to give a lot of personal facts away,” Jane Doe explains. “My step-cousin had a boyfriend when she was sixteen and my dad was really judgemental. [I wouldn’t want to] imagine that situation with me.”
Huang has perhaps the most effective method of evasion.
“I just walk with my parents,” she says. “Just follow your parents around.”
Requiring numerous techniques that can be hard to execute, unwanted conversation at family gatherings is something that will always exist. However, these reunions do not fail to offer positives like eating good food and seeing favorite relatives again. From avoiding invasive questions to enjoying time together, gatherings definitely have both positive and negative qualities that many students at American can relate to.