Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Bingo--Copying with Closeness at Christmas

I’ve eagerly anticipated this blog post for some time. Unlike my multi-talented co-authors, I didn’t receive as much craft or artistic talent. I know my limitations as a decorator, cook, and home-entertainment guru.

Though I’d love nothing more than to be able to fashion napkin rings out of fresh holly boughs or whip up a gourmet dessert out of pantry staples like chocolate chips, powdered sugar and Ranch Style beans, I probably couldn’t teach you anything new in the holiday entertaining department. However, I do have a helpful holiday hint for you this year.

My terrific tip is crafty, as in clever and innovative—no hot glue or grapevine wreaths required. It’s relational, not hospitable.

Though I’ve searched I’ve been unable to find the original magazine article containing this idea. Suffice it to say I read about it in a Christmas issue of one of the popular women’s magazines.

The helpful article contained instructions for making and playing Holiday Bingo. The grid is similar to regular Bingo except you fill each spaces with something relatives say or do that drive you crazy.

Intended as a coping mechanism, I suggested it to a friend who has—to put it mildly—a challenging relationship with her mother. My friend, whom I’ll call Anne, had to think of 24 annoying things that she predicted her mother would say or do during the holiday visit.

“Only 24?” Anne joked.

“Yeah. Sorry to limit you.” I was beginning to feel her pain—which, I suppose, was the whole point of the exercise.

If her mom said or did something my friend had noted on the Bingo grid, Anne could mark off that area. I did the same. Naturally, the idea was to see which of us could get Bingo first.

This simple game accomplished several things.

First, it completely changed Anne’s outlook on her mother’s behavior. Anne found herself laughing at her mother’s previously annoying or hurtful behavior, instead of dissolving in tears when her mother criticized her parenting abilities. Instead of being irritated when her mother belittled her for talking about the incarnation of Jesus, Anne laughed sneaking off to mark that section of her grid. Though Anne’s circumstances, resolving to be kind to a critical, overbearing mother, had not changed a bit, her perspective certainly had.

Second, her mother’s visit was pleasant, not just bearable. Anne smiled constantly and listened more intently, chuckling to herself about mother’s predictability, shallowness and critical spirit. What a change from previous visits!

Third, it gave Anne something to look forward to. Instead of dreading Christmas shopping, cooking, and sitting down to meals—all of which meant conversation with her mother—Anne eagerly anticipated them. After all, each gave her more opportunities to win.

Now you must know that I have great relationships with both my parents and my in-laws. However, being nothing if not a helpful friend, I agreed to help Anne, who so desperately needed to be lifted above the mire of depression, anger and bitterness that typically enveloped her during the holidays.

At first it was a challenge to come up with enough fodder for my grid. (Wink, wink.) I had to enlist the help of my husband, Bret. Once we got started, the items—comments and behaviors—seemed to come easier. Here’s a sampling:

My dad encourages a healthy—as in big, not health conscious—appetite. Without asking, he’ll plop anything from pancakes to biscuits to the last piece of Jimmy Dean sausage onto your plate. (Unfortunately this behavior isn’t limited to holidays.)

My mom seems to lose presents every year. She likes to buy The Perfect Gift, and then hide it so well she can’t find it when it’s time to wrap presents.

My father-in-law can hardly carry on a conversation without mentioning C.S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers or what he himself is teaching in his Bible class at church—sometimes all three.

My mother-in-law, an extremely accomplished shopper, claims she can’t think of anything to get my sons. What she really means is, she can’t buy them clothes from her favorite little boutique.

These items and more graced our Bingo grid.

How did the game turn out? Well, Anne beat me. In fact, she finished in a matter of hours, not days. But she continued to play, adding “Xs” every time her mom exhibited one of the predictable, hurtful behaviors—each one giving her a smile instead of another dagger to the heart.

And my husband and I never had such a fun Christmas!

We plan to make this a generational tradition. I have no doubts that someday my three children will develop their own game about Bret and me to make spending the holidays with Dear Ol’ Mom and Dad bearable.
I could suggest a few behaviors to get them started.

Now it’s your turn to share: What would you put on your Bingo grid?

1 comment:

Mandie said...

Lol, that sounds like a lot of fun. And I can see where the comedy would relief the pain. Great idea!!