It’s not a climactic scene from a new John Waters’ flick, it’s not reality TV…it’s icky reality, Baltimore. On Thursday evening (Thanksgiving), somewhere between carving the turkey and passing the dinner rolls, Shenika Allsup (not pictured), 27, and her half-brother Deonte Antionio Wallace began to argue heatedly, or more likely they continued to argue. Could be they’d argued for years. The Baltimore Sun’s story doesn’t pinpoint. What reporter Ian Duncan reports from the family table: Allsup had had her fill when she stabbed Wallace in the neck with a serving fork (ouch) at a home in the 1100 block of Madison Street in Annapolis, the injury causing some serious bleeding but not much worse to Wallace (Allsup was immediately arrested, charged with first- and second-degree assault, and held on a $1 million bond, police said). If, like many, you’re part of a family circle that tends to turn vicious in tandem with giving thanks and unwrapping random gifts, this story doesn’t shock you even mildly. But maybe each of us who looks forward to (or downright dreads) a fast-approaching holiday visit with extended dysfunctional family can learn from this ridiculous incident. Inspired tips for improved family civility after the jump.
Life coach Teressa Moore Griffin recommends these highly practical (and mindfully premeditated) steps. (For additional related advice from Moore Griffin, visit the link above.)
Make a conscious choice to keep the peace. Talk to yourself beforehand. Anticipate same-as-usual button-pushing from your fussy uncle, your mom, your half-brother; when he or she pushes, simply release the button, release the frustration (leave the room and exhale). In other words, attempt not to respond according to old patterns. Additionally, aim in earnest to help others have a pleasant time, and you increase your own odds.
Set boundaries. Don’t invite into your home the most toxic people in your life. And if you’re hosting the gathering and know you’ll feel slammed, ask for help ahead of time.
Leave the location if a situation turns toxic. Easy as that. Grab your keys, make your polite goodbyes, and g-o go.
Clinical psychologist Mona Ackerman (HuffPost Healthy Living) offers more smart tips for easing the family angst during holiday season.
First, accept that your family is probably dysfunctional.
“What we are talking about here are the almost universal aspects of sibling rivalry, difference of opinion and lifestyle, and freedom and security to express anger. In this case, almost every family is dysfunctional,” says Ackerman.
Next, lower your expectations! Don’t expect a perfect camera-ready holiday table; don’t expect everyone to be in a super-great mood; don’t expect to get a chance to expand at length about your new corner office. Expect some frustration. Likewise expect some good cheer.
Play your regular cast-member part during the visit, and accept that this performance is inevitable.
“Every person has a role or position within the family. This role rarely changes throughout life,” Ackerman notes. Performance anxiety? Ackerman says it’s a given.
Don’t leave your sense of humor in the car. Become philosophical and funny; to do so, gain some distance. Learn to see your blood relatives and in-laws as sit-com-ripe players. Learn to laugh, even in the heat of the moment. At yourself, at life, at fallen meringue.
In light of the Annapolis incident, I would add another tip for improved civility and less frightening familial bonding in 2012: Opt for plastic flatware, Baltimore.
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