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Expectations vs. reality when it comes to being home for the holidays

Every year I start getting really excited about having my family out of school and out of work for the holidays. Then we start spending quality time together, and I realize how dumb that is.

The fact is, holidays are a time of enormous pressure. With all of these traditional, idealistic archetypes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting everyone to gather around the hearth in coordinating holiday sweaters and just enjoying each other’s company. That will never happen, so you might as well start separating your expectations from the reality of holiday togetherness.

First day of vacation

Expectation: Everyone is happy to have a break from school or work.

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Reality: Everyone is bored and hates each other.

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Nothing kills the anticipation of having everyone together faster than having everyone whine about being stuck at home.


Expectation: Cookies!

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Reality: Cleaning!

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Baking cookies sounds fun, until you realize that the kitchen will empty as soon as the fun is over, and all you’ll be left with is 40-dozen too-dry sugar cookies and a splotch of what might be royal frosting up on the ceiling.


Expectation: Flying home for the holidays means excitement and adventure.

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Reality: Flying home for the holidays means discontent and body odor.

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Screaming babies, smelly adults and cranky people everywhere at the airport. And that’s just your family.

Family time

Expectation: Family game night around a warm, cozy fire.

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Reality: Do you even know how to make a fire? No. No, you don’t.

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By the time you actually get the fire lit, everyone will have evacuated the smoky living room.


Expectation: Snow men. Snow fights. Snow!

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Reality: Ugghhh.

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The winter wonderland has turned into a winter hellscape, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.


Expectation: You’re going to decorate your house so hard.

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Reality: You have your kids chop up a few paper snowflakes on Christmas Eve because you start to feel guilty about both the lack of decorations and the amount of time your kids have spent in front of a screen.

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Pinterest is a bastion of lies and insecurity.

Cold nights

Expectation: Warm, delicious, holiday drinks.

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Reality: Cold lite beer, the only thing you have access to because the roads are closed.

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You wanted warm apple cider, but you’ll have to settle for some skunky Natty Ice you found in the back of the crisper.

Last day of vacation

Expectation: Finally — life goes back to normal.

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Reality: Noooo! Don’t leave me.

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When everything is said and done, you’ll suffer a bout of holiday romanticism and mourn the return to work and school, looking forward with bated, moronic breath for spring break in a few months.

More on family holiday activities

Fun holiday traditions to introduce this year
How to survive family holidays without strangling your spouse
Homeschool Christmas crafts and activities

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