A Little Help to Smooth the Holiday Awkwardness

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Maybe it’s just me, but the holiday
season can be an emotionally tricky time. As the mother of an adult son on the
Spectrum, and a member of a family with different ways of seeing the world, I
need a strategy to deal with the potential awkwardness and occasional tension
around the family holiday visit.

Suffice it to say that my holiday
celebration never looks like the Facebook posts I see. It’s always a mixed bag,
and every year I try to figure out the best way to take what’s good and leave
the rest.

I’m conscious of being grateful for
all that I have, but sometimes I need another strategy to make sure I’m
prepared for what can feel a bit… less than ideal.

Enter: Knitting

Knitting is my go-to strategy for
surviving an awkward holiday celebration (or any other potentially fraught
social gathering for that matter).

It offers many benefits you may not
have considered. For example, you can appear to be involved in the
conversation, but it also provides a type of barrier for family weirdness. You
are engaged, but also protected from comments that otherwise might make you
react in a not-so-appropriate fashion.

It’s a subtle buffer that no one will
fault you for. It’s a friendly activity and does not feel as off-putting as
scrolling down your social media feed during the holiday get-together. Subtlety
is one of its many charms.

Knitting as a Connector

Knitting offers a neutral topic that
is a bridge to family members of different views which you might find
distressing (or horrifying). There’s the proverbial “What are you making?”
which provides a topic of conversation that rarely goes badly.

You can talk about colors, patterns,
difficulty level, the warmth… the list goes on. And if your family member
also knits, you can enter into the vocabulary of the knitter: “I always drop
stitches,” “I hate short rows so much,” and “This yarn has a beautiful drape – feel
it.”

It’s a feel good activity that people
admire and can comment on.

Knitting Enhances Cognitive Abilities

Research shows that another benefit of
knitting at emotionally charged events is that handcrafts are good for your brain, staving off depression and
anxiety. I love the idea that I can be helping my brain, even as I am measuring
my words so not to cause any conflict.

I can sit, zenned out, while political
views get tossed around. If the conversation gets particularly dicey, I can
concentrate earnestly on reading my pattern. It feels less insulting than
burying my face in my phone. No one can blame me for concentrating on my
pattern.

Knitting Provides a Sense of Accomplishment

As I sit around the holiday table, I
also have the satisfaction of knowing I am accomplishing something. I can watch
my sweater pockets come to life and get excited that the sweater I have been
working on for months is almost done.

I can get lost in my head planning my
next project and reminding myself that I have to finish a second sock before I
start something new. I’m in my own little knitting world, present only to the
extent I wish to be.

I remind myself to knit mindfully and
focus on the feel of the yarn in my hands and the stitches growing. The rhythm
is soothing, and it offers a deep sense of calm, even if there is a cloud of
tension hanging in the room.

Small business Saturday found me
browsing at my local yarn shop. The owner, Susan, asked how my Thanksgiving
was. A bit too loudly, I replied: “Thank God for knitting!” She nodded. I think
she understood.

What do you do when emotions run high
at family get-togethers? Do you take a handcraft project with you when
gathering for the Holidays? What kind of project is it? How does it help
dissolve conflict? Please share in the comments below.

Let\’s Have a Conversation!

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