I know all too well the unsettled emotions that come along with a “Family” Holiday like Thanksgiving. It seems as though everyone is happily planning a celebration with a house full of guests. We feel alone and question what we have to be thankful for when our marriage and family are falling apart.
My first Thanksgiving, I felt a huge sense of relief when a friend in the same situation suggested we combine our new families. “Of course, the kids will be thrilled,” we thought. No – they weren’t. “Mom, why do you think we would want to babysit her kids on Thanksgiving?” (Our children are basically the same age.)
As what I felt was a compromise, over next several years I filled my table with various adults I knew that were alone or new to the U.S. For example, one year I invited my son’s tennis professional, who was newly arrived from Africa. This was someone my children knew and yet, again, their reaction wasn’t as I’d hoped: “Mom, why do you do this? Strangers at Thanksgiving? Why can’t we just have a family Thanksgiving? Just us.” I wasn’t getting it.
With Thanksgiving of 2013 fast approaching, my now-21-year-old son recently said: “Mom, please – this year, can you not invite ‘aliens’? Can Thanksgiving PLEASE just be us?” I heard this not as a question, not as a demand, but simply as an honest request.
And I realized: It was me. I was afraid to face a table of four.
As I continued year after year to ignore my children’s requests, I had been thinking that a full house would be best; That somehow, someway, it would disguise the impression of divorce. A crowd provided me with a great distraction. I was too busy preparing to be concerned about the thankful part of Thanksgiving. But that didn’t always work for me, and it’s clear to me now that it didn’t work for my children.
This year, I am excitedly respecting my children’s wishes. I am thankful to my children for sticking with me and, finally, not tolerating my attempts at denial. I’m also thankful to have come to a place where I can see this clearly and make this different decision.
For those of you dreading the family and thankfulness of Thanksgiving, my wish for you is to be able to sit with your loved ones and discover what your new Thanksgivings might look like. New can be better; it’s the letting go that’s difficult.
Always remember – You can control how you chose to respond. It starts with your attitude, and you do have control over that. Your children and loved ones will be thankful for your positivity, and you’ll serve as a great example for your children as well! I’m not saying it’s easy; I’m saying it’s possible, and that it can be a good thing.