It’s a situation to which many can relate: Driving back and forth between two (or more) houses on Thanksgiving Day, splitting time between families as judiciously as possible. But even after years cultivating finely laid plans for the holidays, I still get heartburn before I’ve even had a bite of turkey.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore spending time with our families. One of the things I am most thankful for is having our family close by, and that they are actually fun, enjoyable people to be around. But Thanksgiving Day seems to have a general malaise about it; perhaps it’s all the turkey and wine. And right about when I’m ready for a nap, it’s time to load up the car for the roughly-one-hour drive to the next house. Add a child into the mix and things get even more complicated.
Christmas is simpler. It’s basically a two-day holiday. Christmas Eve is spent with one side of the family, Christmas day is with the other. Easy peasy. Thanksgiving is one painfully short yet seemingly endless day. And sadly, we cannot be in two places at once.
Set expectations. You don’t want hard feelings or guilt trips on either side. So let your hosts and your parents know the plan ahead of time. We typically eat a fantastically filling turkey dinner at one house, and then head to the other for desserts, cocktails, and football. As long as people know ahead of time to set a plate for you (or not), nobody’s feelings will get hurt.
Set a schedule (but be flexible). We have a time in mind of when we will head out, and then understand that it may be off an hour or so in either direction. We try to plan around our son’s nap schedule, but we also look for cues that day as to the best time to leave. As much as I am a planner, I have learned that I cannot pull my son away from chasing his cousin around the yard without setting off a full on tantrum. Semi-rigid flexibility is my new M.O.
Decide what works for you. It’s important that we see both sides of the family on Thanksgiving, so splitting time is what works for us. Others may alternate holidays, or host at their own home, or even travel away to avoid having to make these tough decisions! You can’t make everyone 100% happy and there may be some sacrifices involved. All you can do is your best to strike a balance.
In the end, I am thankful for our loving families; for my understanding husband and typically laid-back son; and I am thankful that we have a quiet, warm home to come back to every day.
And I am thankful that I don’t have to cook this Thanksgiving. Everyone should be thankful for that.