As much anticipated and cherished as holidays can be,they often introduce difficult choices. Which side of the family do we celebrate with? Do we go to dinner at one o’clock and then try to feign appetite and excitement for the second one served at five? How much endurance can we realistically expect from our young children? Is the expense of traveling long distance prohibitive for our family this year?
I talked to a mom of three children under four. She was upset and confused. Her dilemma was deciding whether she and her husband and children should travel to their extended families, as has been their yearly tradition, when that choice seems almost inconceivable to her this year. Her four-year-old is just recovering from an extended case of the flu, her two and a half -year-old is having temper tantrums and has regressed in using the potty since his six-week-old sister arrived. The baby is colicky, she and her husband are both exhausted, and it does not seem practical or wise to embark on an eight-hour car ride to have dinner at her family’s house and then the next day drive two hours to have another celebration with her husband’s parents. This mom wants so much to be fair to both sets of grandparents and is very concerned that she is robbing her children of their precious memories and traditions.
Traditions evolve and reinvent themselves over the years as situations and circumstances change. Children readily adopt new traditions (not forgetting the old ones) and eagerly claim them as their own. With young children, especially, simplicity is always the more positive choice.
As parents, with a brood of children demanding energy, time and attention, you often need to start new traditions that will work for you. Invite the grandparents to spend Thanksgiving with you at your home. You might be surprised to learn that your parents are ready and willing to build new and different memories with your children and thrilled with your invite. If that’s not possible, send homemade cards from the children, talk on the phone or virtually on the computer. Tell them how much you’ll miss being with them this year, but this is the choice that presently meets your family’s needs.
If you have no family in the immediate area, and are finding it difficult to make the trek long distance, perhaps you can join together with another family whose situation is the same. Share the cooking and enjoy each other’s company. Or have a quiet family day, bake a pie together, stick the turkey in the oven, go for a walk, eat when it works for you, make some pumpkin spice play dough to play with, read some books, don’t worry about the dust on your shelves or that you’re still wearing your maternity jeans.
Every year won’t be like this one. Pay attention to circumstances and what is most essential now to your family’s harmony and emotional health to help you make the right decision. This particular year might well become a “remember the year” story poignantly shared and repeated again and again at future Thanksgivings.
So for any parents out there struggling with too many obligations, trying to make the right choice, breathe, relax and focus on the needs of the moment, and build on the blessings and gifts of Thanksgiving Day.