For many years of our lives, Thanksgiving was the big holiday for me and my children, but not for traditional reasons. Being present at our Thanksgiving table meant one thing; we were still alive. It sounds almost crazy to read that now, but that was our reality in those days. I actually had a notarized letter at my mom’s house in Indiana; it started, “if you are reading this, I am dead.” Yikes. [We’ve come a long way baby!] Fear is quite an effective uniting force.
When my current husband, Steve, and I married some 17 years ago, we tried to integrate our traditions, while still honoring specific rituals. If any of you reading have a step family situation, you know what a difficult task that can be. When adults with kids marry, those kids want to hang onto things from their former lives. It is not a statement of rejection so much as a statement of ‘rights’…this is the way we do it. Nobody wants to lose ground.
As the years pass, additional obstacles have come our way. When kids marry, they have a second family to consider on holidays. When kids have kids, they may want to spend a portion of that holiday creating a family tradition of their own. And when kids divorce (which is almost unavoidable with the divorce rate being what it currently is), they have to consider their new spouse’s family, the past spouse’s family, and visitation agreements. Before you know it, it seems like it will be almost impossible to maintain any type of family tradition.
But…with effort and compromise, I do believe we can preserve our family traditions. They may not look exactly as they began, but as long as they have the one essential ingredient: family, they can survive…hopefully, for many generations.
Call me old fashioned, but I think we need to strongly encourage some things with our adult kids, even if they don’t want to hear it. They are still our children and we will always be their parents (definition: one who nurtures a child–no age limit listed). At no time in their lives will they ever be wiser than us because we’ve lived longer. All of this effort is not for our (the parents) sakes, but rather for their sakes, and also for their children. We won’t be here forever, and when we are gone, these are the warm and fuzzy memories that will keep them company and bring them joy. Looking at the bigger picture like that—knowing how much the memories of my own mom bring me joy and how I wish I had tried harder in my adult years—keeps me fighting to find ways to keep our traditions alive.
For the past several years, we have moved our Thanksgiving feast an hour earlier several times to accomodate spouse family celebrations. Then last year, it moved even earlier (to lunch time) to accommodate a custodial agreement. This year, we have decided to do Thanksgiving brunch, around 10:30 in the morning because of yet another timing conflict. Also, it was beginning to feel like people were eating and running—and dreading eating more turkey later. Ideally, holidays should not include stress and dread!
No, we will not have the traditional Thanksgiving meal for brunch; but when I asked the kids which was more important to them, what we ate or having everyone here, there was an undivided answer: family first. In this 21st century of living, with all of the changes it entails, we must be flexible and resilient so as to not sacrifice things of great importance.
Different families have different holidays and they vary in degrees of importance to each. But I challenge you to choose at least one that you hold almost sacred in your family. Let there be one time each year you can count on every member of your family being in attendance, when they promise to show up as your children, even if they are currently in a disagreement with one another. We grow and change…and how can their relationships ever be mended if they never see one another? I can’t begin to tell you how many family disagreements are dissolved simply because they see one another. It is easy to hold a grudge against someone you don’t see and easy to let go when you see someone you love and have missed. And don’t forget, we never know how long anybody will be in our lives.
Be thankful for life. It is the most precious gift.
PS. Please forgive any typos you may read in my writings. By the time my kids or husband have pinpointed them, my followers have had to read the uncut version. I try…but my flying fingers sometimes have a mind of their own!