Q: Christmas is at my house, but my mom wants me to use all her old traditions. She's hassling me for wanting to serve turkey instead of lamb and trying to talk me out of a Secret Santa swap. How do I get her to let go?
This isn't really about turkey; it's more about the fact that your mom is chicken about what your tweaks to her beloved traditions will mean. She's used to the holidays unfolding exactly the same way every year—it comforts her, and probably makes her feel in control. But she's gotten over the other times you've made it clear you're a big girl (like the day you replaced the Britney Spears poster in your bedroom with a Gwen Stefani one), and she'll likely adjust to a somewhat revised holiday routine, too. Just help her out. "As far in advance as you know you'll be making a change, tell her, so she can start mentally processing it," advises Danielle Bobish, founder and creative director of Curtain Up Events, Inc., an event-planning company in New York City. Simply say, "I've been going over the holiday menu, and I'm going to be serving turkey this year as the main course."
If she protests that no one will eat it, let her bring the lamb, too. Or if you're starting up something like a gift swap, say, "The kids are so excited about creating their very own family tradition!" It's hard to keep dissing what makes the grandchildren happy. (Meanwhile, make a point of keeping one or two of your mom's favorite rituals just to show her you respect them. They were once your traditions, too, and a cookie swap or a round of old-fashioned carols on Christmas Eve won't kill you.) You may still hear a few grumbles, but try to cheer her along -- once she sees how much fun it all is, she'll relax, and you'll be glad you took the high road.