Expectations and parenting: my lesson for the holidays


Apparently, I’m a lot more judgy and cranky.

This was weird to me. My parents are very cool people. They do not make me FEEL judgy and cranky. Not at all.

And I was honestly pretty resistant to this feedback when I heard. The first several times.

But I thought about it over time – like, over years, honestly – and realized that maybe, just perhaps, sort of, they might be a little bit right.

Let’s be clear, it’s not my parents that make me judgy and cranky.

It’s me. 

It’s me reacting to a fear that my parents might think I am not a good parent, and if I am not a good parent then I am also not a good daughter, because after all, they raised me.

So what “judgy and cranky” really means is that I am far more strict with my kids when we’re at my parents’ house, and I put expectations on their behaviors that I do not have for them in our own home.

It means I am short-tempered about behaviors that I might consider somewhat acceptable “at home,” but not good enough for my mom’s kitchen or my dad’s den.

It means my kids associate my parents’ house with their mom going slightly nutty on them, and them wondering what I’m going to find wrong this time.


Now that my kids are older, they are much more inclined to raise an eyebrow, roll their eyes or simply tell me, “it’s fine, Mom. Sheesh.”

And now that I am older, and a tiny bit wiser, I try to listen.

And then step back. Step away from trying to be the people-pleasing, well-behaved daughter with perfect, well-behaved kids, and lean into the imperfect chaos that is my family. People I love and trust and value, despite and often especially because of, all our flaws.

With the holidays coming up, many of us may won’t have the stress of being at our mom’s house or listening to Aunt Ida tell a ridiculously morbid story or listening to Uncle Joe’s racist rants. Or watching our grown-up mom revert to little-girl status trying to please her parents.

But stress dynamics will still be at play this holiday season. And for some of you, family dynamics, too.

What will you be watching for this holiday season to help you manage your stress and enjoy your holiday time, no matter who is or isn’t at the holiday table?

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