Holiday vacation: You open the door to stay at a family member’s home and it doesn’t feel right, now what?
You talk with your family and just can’t wait to have the Norman Rockwell kind of holiday with your kids. Either you are replaying a past memory or trying to create a memory of something you dreamed about and never had. This should be a piece of cake and so much fun for everyone, right? Ah, don’t rain on my parade you say? Who? Not me!
You open the door to where you are staying and all of a sudden something hits you; this is not the way I remember! It is not supposed to look like this! Is this a dream or a reality? What is going on? Then your kids run by you and they are off to explore the new amusement park of someone else’s house they have never been in and using the vacation logo as an excuse for ‘no holes barred’ type of lifestyle for the next week or so. Fun you say? This is going to be great!
What could go wrong? Here is a list of a few things that need to be rapidly assessed and changes made accordingly to keep your family safe.
The door opens and you see this:
A drunken family member: well you grew up with this and this is no big deal, right? Well, yes and no. If you have stopped drinking, have teens with you, or just ‘so gotten over’ that type of behavior in your life, then yes, this is an issue. Remember one thing: a person who has been drinking for a lifetime is NOT going to change a thing while you are there no matter what you do to change them or the situation.
Alcohol around your kids and easily accessible may not be the way to go. Even small children can be intrigued with sweet smelling drinks or a drink of many colors. If there are many bottles of liquor in the home, what is one less bottle missing; it will never be noticed right? Off your teen goes and drinks it all in secret only to find themselves in a dangerous place. While you may have gotten through other holidays with this type of behavior, maybe you are ready for a change or you just don’t want the hassle. No problem, you are taking a stand, you are being a responsible adult and that does not come without bumps in the road but stand up and be firm with what you will tolerate and won’t. But remember, it is you in their space. So if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.
Sickness: a cold is one thing that comes on fast and no big deal, right? Not so fast. If you have kept your family safe and healthy and you are not in someone else’s home with their air, their exposures and their germs, do you really want it?
Are you being a judgmental parent and being a crazy germaphobe? Well, whose kids are they anyway? You have the right to say, no way do I want to get sick and I am happy to come over in the morning and visit but I am not staying here. Can you imagine the bathroom of a family that has ‘had a run of colds over the past few weeks’ and we must be over it all now? Well, pack your bags because you are now bringing all those germs right home with you.
From their kitchen, to the beds to the bathroom and the floors, oh my; no thanks, I will keep my healthy immunity just that. Look for sore throats, ‘the runs’, colds, flu, ‘fever from nowhere’, ‘strep’, ‘well it is just a rash’ and ‘we have been feeling up and down these days’ type of comments when you discuss your travel plans.
Remember, it is up to you to ask the questions and get a prior assessment of what you are committing to. It is not their job to disclose that which you do not ask. Many times people will not say they have been sick for fear that you will not come and visit them. Sometimes a visit from you is just what they need but sleeping in their home might not be the best idea for all.
Abuse: you may have grown up with it and figured it stopped when you moved out or rather your thought process was safely tucking those memories back in the vault never to resurface.
Important to remember, abuse may be a lifetime for some, they just never get out of the pattern.
So if you think that just because you shine your smiling face to visit and bring the kiddies to visit and have fun that all will be safe and holly jolly, think again. There are many triggers for abuse and I will just leave it there.
Assess the type of abuse that occurred in the past and make an adult responsible decision to expose your family. There is NEVER a time where abuse is ok. There is never a time where it can be explained away. There is never a time where the holidays or memories are more important than the experience potential that can be had at the hands of an abuser.
Drugs: and I mean the kind that are illegal or potentially exposing yourself or kids to. This is the age of legalization of marijuana. While your mother may be using it for cancer pain, it may be freely in the home.
Time to decide what you want your kids to see and experience and if you want the potential for a teen to sneak it off and try it out to keep you awake at night, think this through. Edible marijuana products may be in an elder’s home as they help with many health conditions of aging. But hey, let’s just say it here, the elders may have been hippies in the past and they just can’t wait to move to a state where recreational use is legal, oh glory days! Watch your kids in these states as it is also legal to grow your own plants, so just what plants did your kids water with grandma.
Sex: it is a touchy subject but one to bring up here. Elders with memory issues may not have boundaries when it comes to their actions. It is important to stay with your child at all times.
Not knowing about a health crisis: you open the door and an elder is in the bed in the living room. This is the time to not freak, it is the time to rapidly assess and ask questions.
While it might be something they choose not to tell you until you got there, it is not something that may be ok for your family to be sleeping there under foot. Your child may be sick and they should not be exposed to this. You may be emotionally a basket case. Your kids may be at the inappropriate age to listen and do what you ask, so it may become a tug of war keeping them in tow.
The first thing you must ask: what is the condition of the patient? Is the end of life imminent? Take your ques from there. The need for a holiday visit might be very necessary at this time so do not run away even if all your inner emotions tell you so. Remember that no matter what your connection with this person may be, be clear on how you can help. They asked you there for a reason.
Financial issues: you open the door and things look ok. It is time to make dinner and it is not what you expect.
If you are visiting anyone, contribute to the meals, whether or not they ask. Even if they feel they can feed you all, paying the bill when you go out is acceptable. If they do not take any money from you and you sense you have more than you need and can share with them, leave cash on the table when you leave. Don’t leave a check because they would be embarrassed to cash it and don’t leave coupons or money orders, they may not use them. The gift would be well received.
Hording: you open the door and just feel overwhelmed. You can’t remember things this way and how could they have gotten this way.
Many reasons may be for an overabundance of things in a home. Hording, fear of loss, grief, medical conditions, mental health, or just lazy; take your pick or make your judgements. In any event, you must assess very quickly because you have no clue what is lurking under anything and know very clearly this home is not up to your standards on child safety. Even if the family has kids and you say it would be ok, remember, those kids grew up with that stuff and they have survivor skills, your kids don’t.
Peer pressure to check things out, try new things or be in a dangerous situation may also be on the table. If you have any concerns that raise your eyes, get out. Make an excuse, say you feel sick and don’t want them to get exposed, say anything. It is their choice to live that way and it just does not fit with you. No judgement, just safety is the number one reason for your decision.
Animals: while you have a dog at home and your family member has one too you think no big deal until you get there and this dog is bigger than two of your kids, slobbering all over the house and it sure could use a bath. Immediately your kids can’t wait to run and play with the animal and all you see is bumped heads, running kids and smelling clothes.
If this is something you can live with day and night for the next few days, then so be it. If you were instantly nauseated you will probably be more nauseated when the dog is in your bed and the kids don’t sleep and running noses start.
Make a choice. Do what you have to do to keep your family safe. Just because they swear their animal is ‘dander free’ and a ‘non allergic kind’ does not mean your kids will not have a reaction.
Have a backup plan before going to anyone’s home with a pet. Taking your pet to their home for the week? Well, while some homes and families may be able to, think long and hard what you are asking of those who are staying in the same home and those coming to visit on the holiday event. While your sister may not worry about you bringing your bull dog, your grandmother who is coming might and it could bring up all sorts of conflict. Make life easier on all.
What to do?
- Take a stand; it is your life and family
- Make a decision: do not allow others to make a decision for you and dish out guilt or shame
- Stick to your guns: if you decide not to stay there, stick to it no matter how much the kids whine
- Have a backup plan: know at least one hotel in the area and make a tentative reservation. You can always cancel if you wish but trying to get reservations at the last minute may not work and you could be in a real predicament. Have a friend or other family member on back up. The more you have ‘in the bank options’, the better.
- Change your plans: nothing is written in stone. If the conditions were not what you expected or can live with, go home. Memories from holidays are the most stressful and always the most remembered. Don’t make bad memories, strive for good ones. Going home is not a bad memory in comparison to something really going awry.
- Create a diversion: if conflict arises, find some reason to change your plans. Sneeze, cough, stomach trouble, your work calls, or your migraines are back can all work. Change what can be changed and move on.
Next year, take a vacation that you have assessed earlier and know it will produce positive results. Funny, you make a plan at work; have noted all the pros and cons for a perfect outcome that fits all involved. Yet, when it comes to family, you rely on the past experiences, wishful illusions and dreams unfulfilled to dictate what you expose you and your family to at the most precious time of the year. Think again next year. Be safe.
If you need help with talking through some of these issues and your audience is too invested in keeping things the way they are; reach out to ask for a session with Dr. Jeanette. She has been through all of these experiences and can help guide you through the process of change and safety. Send her a request for a session on her contact us page.