Holidays With Your Families
The Turkey Tie
Family, Meet Holiday.
Every year, there is one time of year that you can both share excitement and dread for. What time of year is that? That's right, it's the holidays! It all starts on Thanksgiving Day, when you have to do preparations for either your own dinner that guests are coming to, or the food you promised to bring to others feasts. Then you have to spend the day mentally preparing for such guests or hosts that you need to brave for the day. Me? I enjoy baking and cooking, so the mental preparation takes place for me while I am cooking. This year I made homemade cranberry sauce and butternut squash/sweet potato pie for each household. To make the cranberry sauce, I end up spending an hour or two smashing cranberries through a strainer to make the jellied version. Sounds like a lot of work? It sure it. But the more energy I put into smashing them, the more anger and preemptive frustrations that I can get out prior to the holiday so I don't fall victim to giving into it during the holidays. This Thanksgiving was especially special because it was the first Thanksgiving since my oldest son was born that his birthday fell on the holiday. Courtesy of Carvel, we found an ice cream cake decorated like a turkey.
The problem with holidays when you have a partner or spouse and children, everyone wants to see you. Wait, I take it back. They don't mind seeing you. What they really want is time with your children. There is a tug of war, depending on the family situation. In my family, my husband's parents are divorced and my oldest son has another biological family that would like to see him. Needless to say, every holiday is a master juggling game. We manage, though Thanksgiving is trickier than Christmas, because at least on Christmas you get two days to juggle around times with.
Keep calm and accept that you signed on for this when you decided to commit yourself with another person and bring children into this mix. When you made that commitment, you joined your loved one's family. If you were not ready for the sacrifice of enjoying your peace at home on the holidays, you probably should have reconsidered your situation. Your partner's family is just as important as yours, and to think otherwise is selfish and disrespectful of your partner. Sometimes you just need to bite the bullet for love and commitment. The holidays are an important time of year for family, not so you can sit home alone. And friends count as family too, most good friends are great surrogates when you can't make it home or have no family.
It needs to be simple. There doesn't need to be a nervous breakdown or ten around this time of year. The most important thing is your family. Make sure they are enjoying themselves, above all else. The joy of children while they overindulge on junk food you don't allow them to splurge on the rest of the year while overindulging in their overpriced toys, is the most precious and rewarding part of this time of year. But don't forget to try and give back to those in need, too. This is a perfect opportunity to teach your children the joy of giving back. This time of year soup kitchens and food pantries are in desperate need of donations and volunteers. My son, as a member of his school's student council, was a part of the school's can drive. Other charities like Toys for Tots are fantastic as well, and it's just a matter of buying a simple toy for a child in need. As a person who was given a toy for my oldest son when he was a baby from this organization, I can't help but to hope it continues to do spread the warmth and happiness as it did for me. You have the power to make this holiday your own, with your own traditions, so don't let the negativity get to you.
Survival Tips for the Holidays
We might think we are super parents during the rest of the year with the amazing feats we are capable of accomplishing. Holidays completely ruin that and make us frantic and overwhelmed. So here are some tips to help out.
Balance is key: The title of this says it all. Balance is key to this, and the better you are at balancing, the less stressful this can be. Do not be unfair and either send your partner out without you or neglect going to your partner's family at all. Both of the scenarios send a very clear statement: you don't respect your partner enough to suck up their family for an hour or two or you don't love or care enough about your partner to accept their family as part of their lives with you. They notice, and it can build resentment and anger within the relationship.
You cannot be every where at once: sometimes you can't make a family's dinner, especially when you have a lot of families to visit on one day. On Thanksgiving, we have a two house max of families to visit. We have an early dinner with my parents and my husband's mother's on the actual holiday, then try to make my husband's father's house during the weekend. My son goes over his birth grandmother's house for an evening dinner. Christmastime is easier for us, as we split up the holidays between the two days, always making sure the children get ample time for playing with their new goodies. Unless Santa dropped off coal, in which case better luck next year.
Fake it to make it: My husband and I are lucky to get along with our perspective in-laws. I know a lot of people are not as lucky. This is the time of year to fake it. Easier said than done? My time working in customer service has allowed me the unique talent of smiling and nodding through anything. Is your mother-in-law berating your cooking? Stuff your mouth full of food instead of retorting back something to fuel a fire. You won't be doing anyone any favors. If anything, you'll create more stress. It could get so bad that an ultimatum you might lose will happen, and nothing good can come up with that. Adults have to do things they don't want to do all the time. Real adult accept this and do it.
Enjoy it: Most importantly, make the best of the holidays with your families. Parents die and children grow up, and life is too short to have regrets. Plus, someday you might be the evil in-law no one wants to visit, and you don't want to be that guy.
The Hostess with the Mostest?: This one is an option for people who are capable of hosting their own gathering. Sometimes it's just easiest to try and have everyone over your place. It might be a hassle doing the whole dinner yourself, and if you can't handle that part yourself? Try a potluck Thanksgiving or Christmas for a non-traditional spin. (Or just hope there is a good Chinese food restaurant willing to deliver to your feast. And tip well!) This can relieve the headache of having to be everywhere on the holidays
I hope this guide helps you plan out your holidays well, it's supposed to be a time of year of joy, not misery!