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How to Manage the Crazy Family Member at Thanksgiving


On a year when life circumstances kept us from our “traditional” Thanksgiving with our immediate family, we joined some of very our favorite friends. They were gracious enough to open their home for a few more, namely us, to join their extended family gathering.

It was delightful; they are lovely, fun, endearing, and we shared lots of laughter and hugs. Then their “Crazy Uncle Eddie” (C.U.E.) arrived. Whoa! We all have one of those, right? I once heard it said, “If you don’t think you have a Crazy Uncle Eddie then you’re probably him (or maybe Crazy Aunt Edwina).” Ha! Probably true.

I watched as their C.U.E. set out to embarrass, insulting each male member of his family. This difficult man apparently landed the bull’s eye on each member of his gender. I think at times he was trying to be humorous … I think. I saw the “face flinch”—the cringe that briefly flashes as he slung his words their way.

Each barb was aimed well then delivered with an amazing amount of accuracy. It stung. Some families would have enacted the Hatfields and McCoys pronto, drawing the line across the dining room table taking sides.

I saw the “face flinch”—the cringe that briefly flashes as he slung his words their way.

Not this family. In amazement, I watched each of those men set their jaw to not retaliate. Really, they didn’t fight back. Yes, they sometimes responded with a short, firm answer, but it was never harsh. These men were armed and ready for C.U.E.

I do believe they had determined in advance not to respond in like manner. Not allowing what could have been to happen. No explosion on this home front. They would not let C.U.E. take over as the C.O.A. (center of agitation) and ruin the lovely time of coming together. They instead collectively chose to spend the day giving thanks and celebrating with those they treasure the most. I loved that.

What else I saw was that they loved their C.U.E.; yes, they loved this difficult, acidic, somewhat impossible uncle. They were willing to look past his sharp edges to love him well. There were some boundaries in place. Directing the conversation away from the landmines while ignoring the offense. That’ll preach. I’m so proud to call these people friends. I aspire to love like that. I learned a lot that Thanksgiving. Yes, I did. Now, pass the biscuits, please.

For more articles on family dynamics, read My Ex, My Kids and a FuneralInstagram Envy During the Holidays: Beware of the PitfallThis is Your Brain on FOMO and How One Insult Strengthened My Dignity



Linda is a beauty school drop out (sing along if you’re a Grease junkie) raised as an army brat, loves home cooked meals, and telling stories of how she survived a crazy tornado.

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