Steel Advice: It's OK to break from tired family traditions

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Tradition or obligation? I have been discussing with some of my friends the upcoming holidays and their plans. We have been split on the discussion of hosting a holiday dinner/get-together with family and if it is a tradition or obligation. The issue is family dynamics change -- children get older, schedules are different and even some values or beliefs are not the same. Do you think someone should continue the "tradition" just because it is family? What about creating a new tradition that is actually fun?


DEAR LOOKING: Traditions are part of the fiber that knit families together. There is nothing quite like an overfed group of relatives sprawled around a television set bonding and joking as they wait for more pies and cheesecakes to be put on the table. Memories of cooking, eating and enjoying each other's company sustain people and provide emotional comfort until the next gathering. Some relatives are buoyed by the camaraderie and knowledge that they are part of a group. Inevitable drama and mishaps become a legacy.

If you feel it is not fun to go over the hills to Grandma's or if Grandma is over the hill, break with the past and celebrate in a different way. Take a mini vacation, cook a nontraditional dinner that you know your family likes or take a run or a walk as a family. Do the things you can't do when you are packed in your car and are on the road to celebrate with your 25 favorite cousins, aunts and uncles. Start to build your own new memories. Shake things up a bit and don't judge which is better, the large extended family dinners or the smaller ones. Give yourself the freedom to try something different. Holidays are a time to relax and celebrate a break from your routine. We all have to be somewhere, so start a tradition of enjoying where you are.

DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I have a brother who has lived his entire life consumed with defense mechanisms, ego and ignorance. His immediate family has never addressed the issues knowing his temper and "always right" attitude. They just go along to keep things peaceful. I have overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of his ignorance that even a total dunce should be able to comprehend. Being nice people, our family relations are respectful toward him, but they don't respect him. Non-relations invoke nicknames and gaudy humor to discredit him. He is totally oblivious to everything because of his self-centered existence. In his boomer years with a limited life span ahead, do I dare confront him in person or by letter with hopes of some self-realization. Do I give him the opportunity for an awareness that may lead to some atonements and better-late-than-never adjustments. Or do I stay the course and let him leave this life with no dignity.


DEAR ASSISTANCE NEEDED: Your brother may be playing the best hand he can with the cards he has been dealt. His personality flaws are his issues. Changing his volatile and abrasive behavior is beyond your control.

You are embarrassed for your brother and angry that he does not see things as you do. Confronting him with corrective advice will send your relationship into a tailspin.

You are not his judge or jury. Get a fresh perspective on this adult-sibling relationship from your clergyman or doctor. You need professional assurance that you are doing the most you can for your brother by accepting him as he is.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.

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