We didn’t spend Thanksgiving with a single one of our five children. Did it feel odd? Yes. Was it the best for everyone? We think so.
Our oldest daughter and her husband alternate holidays with his family and our family; this year Thanksgiving was with his family. Our oldest son lives in California and coming home for Thanksgiving just wasn’t in the budget. Our middle daughter and her husband and our granddaughter were already expected at two different Thanksgiving gatherings on his side of the family. Child number four was planning to spend the holiday with some friends, and our youngest and his fiancé would have been happy to join us, but we decided to give them the freedom of no expectations and the ability to enjoy the day fully with her family. Instead of gathering our immediate family, Mark and I drove a couple hours to spend time with our parents.
I love the holidays but I don’t love them more than my family. I love traditions but I don’t love them more than the people I share those traditions with.
Too often the biggest “gift” given at the holidays is guilt. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is give our family freedom.
So instead of turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie on Thursday, we had a family gathering of whoever could come for pizza and games last weekend. Instead of ham, sweet potatoes, and persimmon pudding on Christmas Day, we’ll gather everyone who can come together on a day that works best for all either before or after Christmas.
One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to allow change to happen as your kids get older. Their sphere of relationships grows exponentially when they marry and start a new family. These days I’m using phrases like these more often:
“We understand. It’s not the day that’s important. We’ll find another time that works better!”
“Your heart is most important to us. We don’t want to add any additional pressure by piling on expectations. If you can join us, we’ll be thrilled and if you can’t, we understand.”
“I love you. I love you the same no matter what decision you need to make for your sanity and what’s best for your family.”
Want to give a powerful gift this holiday season? Give the gift of freedom. Flexibility. No expectations. Unconditional love. Your loved ones will thank you!
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I can’t express how much I needed this at this very moment! Thank you, Jill, and thank you, God for “Godcidences”.
Jill, this is so true! We have been so fortunate that my husband’s parents and my parents have had this attitude. I have friends and family members who haven’t been so fortunate- parents that insist that their grown children come on the exact day of the holiday, every holiday, every year. It creates so much stress and guilt, and those adult children end up dreading every holiday that approaches. My kids are young, so I can only imagine how hard it is to have to let go of celebrating holidays the way you have grown accustomed to, but as an adult child it is truly a gift to be given the freedom to create your own traditions and celebrate at alternative times.
Kristi, you are VERY fortunate that both your parents and your inlaws give you the gift of freedom! So glad!
Jill, That was inspirational. We are not quite at that place where our kids have other places to go, but it will be here before we know it. I hope I can keep that attitude. As a child, I felt that guilt as I shuffled from parent to parent. It can ruin the moment you are in. My Mom was always so wonderful to say things that lessened the guilt, and it meant the world.
Yes, you’ll be there before you know it, Maree!