Part of the guilt we so often feel as divorced parents comes from knowing that the traditions we had with our kids when they were little might not survive the split. This year, instead of feeling guilty, I’ve decided to take stock of the things that are good about the new life I live.
#1 No more command performances
Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite. When I was a kid, we spent Thanksgiving with my paternal grandparents. I wasn’t crazy about them and the feeling was mutual. My parents were in constant competition with my aunt and uncle, which made for a stressful day – especially since my awkward, uncoordinated siblings and I could not compete with our athletic, attractive, and always perfectly dressed cousins. Even as an adult with children of my own, I dreaded gathering everyone and pretending to be perfect in front of the extended family.
#2 I can eat whatever and whenever I want
Once my grandparents were no longer with us, my sister took over hosting duty and she did (and still does) a beautiful job. Her husband is a fantastic cook and her table is always beautifully set for a formal dinner. But last year, after my dad passed, our families had grown enough that we decided to have our Thanksgivings. That means my fiancé and I got to do our Thanksgiving. We have six daughters between the two of us ranging in age from 17 to 26 and we love to see them, but also understand they have boyfriends, jobs and, well, their own lives. The past few years, my fiancé (who is also a great cook) fixed a big spread on Thanksgiving and everyone was invited to stop over anytime, fill up a plate, hang out (or not), and take home leftovers. The lack of stress and expectations is intoxicating.
#3 New traditions
I recently asked the girls about their Thanksgiving plans and all three were non-committal. One is invited to a Friendsgiving, the other two are invited to their boyfriend’s family Thanksgivings. My fiancé’s daughters will spend the day with their mom. That leaves us…FREE! Not only free, but free with a four day weekend! After decades of following a tradition that I was never wild about, I finally get to do something fun. Instead of dreading Thanksgiving, I’m excited! This year, we’re heading to the Twin Cities to catch a Gophers game and let someone else do the cooking – and the clean up. I feel a new tradition coming on, and this is one I hope will last for years and years.