Expectations for Holidays

When parents divorce, holidays become a carefully choreographed dance. Time has to be split between families to give everyone time with the kids. When the children are grown, things get even more complicated. Once the children married, they have to execute a dance between not only their own parents, but also their in-laws.

Whether it’s a fourth of July barbecue, a birthday, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, parents need to understand that they are not the only person demanding time of their children. Everyone needs to remain flexible, traditional celebrations may need to be altered. If your family celebrates Christmas on the evening of Christmas Eve and your son’s in-laws are celebrating at the same time, you need to understand that they will can not be in two places at the same time. Both families need to compromise, discuss what the most important parts of the evening are. It is then your child’s job to figure out how to spend their time.

If your son and his wife choose to join her family on Christmas Eve because they go to midnight mass but you want them to share time with you without being rushed, it may be time to consider celebrating on another day. Standing your ground and demanding them to find time on Christmas Eve for you could easily backfire, either they skip your celebration completely or they join you out of obligation rather than desire.

Another thing to keep in mind is that being the adult child is no easy job, not to mention one your children never asked for. No one wants to juggle their time and their family more than necessary. From the perspective of an adult child of divorce, scheduling family time can be outright torture. There is a feeling of guilt if you push traditions to be changed to accommodate the new family structure. There is a worry that someone will be offended or feel they aren’t getting equal time. Rather than enjoying themselves, they are watching the clock to be sure they don’t run late for the next meal.

If you are a grandparent, be assured that your child is dealing with increasingly crabby children of their own as they are ferried from one event to another and then passed from relative to relative. Kids can only take so much. Many times, a single dinner is enough to put a young child over the edge, much less two in a day or three or more in two days.

By the time they arrive at your house, don’t be surprised if your daughter-in-law’s hair is a mess and your son is racing towards the fridge. Hand her a brush, him a beer, and give your little baby some love. Give them a few minutes to compose themselves before putting the food on the table. Don’t talk to them, they will talk to you once they recover from the ride.

Holidays are a time for family togetherness. If you have to celebrate the fourth of July on the fourteenth, Christmas on New Year’s, and Thanksgiving in December, that’s okay. Your family will be better if they are relaxed and not rushed. Your time will be cherished if everyone works together. If you choose to dig in your heels, don’t be surprised if your kids can tell their friends what the “record time” is for a family function. Ours is 42 minutes from food hitting the table to our car doors closing.

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