Let’s face it, there are some family members we can spend an hour with; but not a day.  And there are other family members we can spend a day with, but not a week.  So I thought this might be a good opportunity to lighten up a bit in this week’s post, and discuss families and the holidays.

Happy to see you?

The holiday season is known for being a time filled with goodwill and happiness.  But for many people it can be a stressful and difficult time because certain members of the clan show up every year at this time to share tribal rituals they’d rather not engage in.

Now look, I understand that parents and their children truly look forward to seeing each other for Christmas or Chanukah.  I also acknowledge that this parent misses his college senior and will be happy to see him… as other parents will be happy to see their kids as well.  But I’m also not so naïve to know that when my son races home from college for the holidays, it’s because of the checks (Chanukah gelt) he expects in his Christmas stocking and the iPad under the Chanukah tree.  Hey, even as a kid growing up, I fully understood the power of leverage.  “I’ll come home and allow you the privilege of spending time with me before I leave the house and join my friends, so long as you make it worth my while!”

The jokes are not just coincidence

Please know that I am not a holiday Scrooge; far from it.  But I do pay attention to what people say and I do read Hallmark cards.  I was recently shown a card that was given by a wife to her husband that read, “Even if you don’t get to do EXACTLY what you want to on THANKSGIVING, think of all the people who can’t even be with their families” Then, when you open the card, you read… “Those lucky bastards.”  See what I mean?

You have to admit, in-law jokes didn’t come about by chance.  The humor is based on the premise that the average mother-in-law often considers her son-in-law to be unsuitable for her daughter, or daughter-in-law unsuitable for her son.  And the average father-in-law just prefers to watch football and usually needs to be instructed by his wife on how best to interact.

This reminds me of story about my neighbor, Joe, who last Christmas met his daughter Nicole’s fiancé for the very first time.  Soon after they arrived, Joe’s wife, Judy, did most of the talking at their Christmas Eve dinner.  Joe openly admitted he still didn’t know the young man’s name when dinner ended.  Then, Judy told Joe to take James, Nicole’s fiancé, for a walk to learn more about the young man.  Reluctantly, Joe invited James for a stroll around the neighborhood.

“So what do you do for a living?” Joe asked.

“I am practicing to become a minister,” James replied.

Joe was impressed and asked, “Great. How will you provide a nice house for my daughter?”

“I will study hard and God will provide for us”, James responded.

Joe then asked, “I didn’t see an engagement ring, how do you plan to buy one for Nicole?”

“I will study hard and am confident God will provide for us,” James responded again.

Joe explained that every time he asked James a question having to do with finances, he gave a similar answer, “I have faith that God will provide me with everything.”

That night as they prepared for bed, Judy asked how the conversation went during their walk.  Joe got into the bed, turned on the television, and looked at Judy.  “James has no job and has no firm plans.”   But with a big smile on his face Joe concluded, “But James apparently holds me in very high esteem, because he’s confident I will provide for him.”

Well, I hope this holiday season you openly embrace all the family members who plan to share the holiday spirit with you.  As for me, once the Christmas tree is up and the menorah is displayed, I’ll go pitch a tent in the backyard… just in case.


Jay Block is an industry pioneer and the nation’s leading motivational career coach.  Jay is a best-selling author of 15 books, including his latest blockbuster: 101 Best Ways To Land a Job in Troubled Times (McGraw-Hill).  He has a 20-year record of success for creating and recreating the career management industry. His website is: www.jayblock.com