I was in session today with one of my clients who is navigating her role in her family–and how to spend the holidays with them. She and her husband will spend their time driving half way across the country where they will split their time among his parents, her dad, and her mom (hers are divorced) and all the respective siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. In order to devise a plan that will allow them to maximize the time they will spend with each part of the family, they literally made a spreadsheet to work it out.
And that’s how it is for a lot of families. Adult children have divorced parents…and maybe a partner with divorced parents. Or have divorced parents and have a partner with one “set” of parents. Or have two in tact sets of parents but live in completely different places. Or two in tact sets of parents who live near by but have nothing in common with the other set. Sometimes you can get all those people together in the same room. Most of the time, you can’t.
And then you make a spreadsheet. Because the holidays are stressful enough. You can’t go throwin’ conflict on the fire, too. Even though you may spend the entire holiday season feeling pulled in 17 different directions and/or caught in the middle of a few. Or a feud.
I am thankful. I am one of those few lucky (blessed) individuals whose parents never got divorced. I have a partner whose parents never got divorced. I like his people; he likes mine. We can all–and frequently do–spend time in the same room together.
And so here’s what my Thanksgiving gathering looked like: A trip to Columbia, SC with my husband, son and father to stop at the home of my husband’s sister, brother-in-law and niece (and really, they’re my siblings, too). While there, the parental in-laws stopped through on their way to the final destination of us all, and we all (all 9 of us) went out for dinner. The parental in-laws took the niece and charged on to Washington, GA. We got up the next morning (Thanksgiving morn) and headed there ourselves…to the home of my brother-in-law-in-law’s people. His parents, brother, sister-in-law and two nieces. Add about three others who weren’t spending the holiday with their families (one of whom is because they really shouldn’t spend time together without a therapist on retainer), and you have 18 people for Thanksgiving. Two went home after the big meal, but the 16 of us remained…and actually enjoyed one another’s company.
Thank God I don’t have to make a spreadsheet. But I am mindful of those who do. And I feel a little guilty–because what I just described is so NOT the norm. For those of you navigating the rough waters of the holiday season, hang in there. My hope for you all is that you can find a way to get what you want and what you need from the people you love most–and that your holiday will be short on conflict and feeling pulled in so many directions.