Saturday, 29 December 2007

A Valuable Lesson

What kind of intelligent, progressive human beings would we be if we failed to learn anything from Christmas? For example, I learned that I can only buy my husband so many watch fobs before he becomes exasperated at having to remind me for the tenth year in a row that he doesn’t actually own a pocket watch, and he learned that fancy hair-combs do nothing to improve the appearance of his wife’s newly-shorn locks.

I learned that, while my in-laws are unlikely ever to improve to a degree that I voluntarily seek out their society, with a lot of determination, effort and forbearance on my part, Christmas Day spent with them can actually be more bearable than I would have thought possible. Sure, they’re still going to swear like troopers, blaspheme like they haven’t just been to Christmas Mass, and scream like harpies in a most un-Christmassy manner. They’re still going to tell appalling so-called ‘jokes’ that aren’t funny in the least (one was about bringing my baby home from hospital and burying it in the back yard; another denigrated Jews and made light of the Holocaust). But, keeping in mind the promise I’d made to myself to try reeeeeeeally hard to get along with them on that of all days, I somehow managed to rise above the despair-inducing fug which emanates from them with each utterance.

I ignored the idiocy! With an iron will I kept my face a mask of impassivity! I initiated conversation! I chatted with the ill-mannered child, my niece! I managed a tolerable show of graciousness! I even smiled at the less offensive jests. And as if my unaccustomed efforts jolted the planets out of their normal courses into some rare alignment, my in-laws were seemingly less objectionable than usual.

Perhaps they responded subconsciously to my improved behaviour. Perhaps it was extraordinary luck the usual noxious stream of prattle remained largely dammed behind their teeth. Perhaps it was a Christmas miracle. All I can say is, I’m glad I’ve learned that maybe, just maybe, time spent with them doesn’t have to be such a trial after all, if I only try to be a (much) more tolerant person.

Just don’t ask me to try it too often – after all, Christmas comes but once a year.


River said...

Nice that you all managed to get along for the day. who knows? As time goes by and people mellow maybe you can do it again for Easter as well. Possibly even birthdays.........

Anonymous said...

Well I hope it was worth it Ms P... are you going to say anything about the newest Polonie- like ever ? at all? I am imagining the worst like maybe it was kidnapped by Jews or something - * tee hee* - if not Happy and tolerant, loving and wise New Year to you...

Rita said...

I hope you'll find, as I did, that in the end, good grace and manners wins out with your intolerant in-laws. My ex parents-in-law couldn't stand me 30 years ago. Were outright rude & sarcastic on any occasion, maligned me everywhere they could to whomever would listen. Were hugely bigoted and discriminatory, whilst at the same time ensuring all around knew they attended church every Sunday!

This year I arranged their family Xmas lunch (held prior to Xmas), and attended, along with my children and their father (my ex husband).

I now appear to walk on water for my ex m-i-l! I haven't altered my attitude (or thoughts on the rudeness & intolerance I endured over many years) at all to this family.

I just always maintained the same offhand politeness (most of the time). Smiled politely while simmering beneath the surface. Let my husband cop it after any interface with them!

I find that I came out, eventually, the winner. I never had that ultimate showdown which always threatened to occur.

I realise that's not the way people generally would deal with issues like that, especially today (we're way more into confrontation today), but in hindsight, I'm really pleased I held my head high and ignored the crap, thus lowering myself and my behaviour to their level, which definitely wasn't mine.

Lonie Polony said...

Hey River - hmm, we'll see. I really need to try.

Hello Mutley - as I write this, the new baby has not arrived although I expect it before the week is over :)

Rita - sage advice and eerie similarities (although I don't think my in-laws are as rude to me (at least not to my face) as yours sounded). I know I should always try and be the better person and take the higher ground, but unfortunately I come nowhere near close to my own ideal of tolerance and grace. This is something I really need to improve on, especially as I want to be a good role-model for my growing children :)