I like reading “Dear Abby,” the same way I like reading the Horoscope or guessing how old the celebrities are on their birthday (I give myself ±2 years for a “correct” guess. Did you know Gloria Steinem is close to Mom’s age than mine?) Oh Abby, you got this one so wrong.
My version of the letter and the response:
Dear Abby: I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving at my house with my children for the past 44 years. Last year my daughter-in-law, Daisy, wanted to celebrate with her mom because of her mom was recovering from cancer. I relented. This year she wants to do the same. She kindly invited me and hubby to join her and her parents. I don’t want to go, told her so, invited her and her parents to my house. She hasn’t replied. I’m afraid I’ll be missing the grandkids. – Grandma KnowsIt.
Abby: Daisy obviously wants to start her own family tradition. Suck it up, go to her house, and agree to alternate years with her.
Me: Abby, did you miss that KnowsIt has children, not just a child? Agreeing to go to Daisy’s house, and alternating years, disrupts the whole dynamics of Thanksgiving. Tradition belongs to more than Daisy and KnowsIt. Daisy, 44 years means that KnowsIt is probably at least 64 years old. Maybe she can keep up the tradition for another 20 years, but chances are she’ll want some help some time sooner than that. KnowsIt, did you forget that 44 years ago, you started a new tradition?
Okay, so here’s the advice from The Black Tortoise. (I learned this, like so many things, from Mom’s example.)
As families grow and change, traditions should be flexible. KnowsIt broke with tradition at some point. I mean, she hasn’t been hosting Thanksgiving from the day she was born, and even if she did, that would have broken someone’s tradition, assuming Thanksgiving was part of her DNA. Changing tradition willy-nilly, with no discussion with your other children is a recipe for disaster. DON’T DO IT. By the way, have you talked to your son about this?
- Take some time to think about why it’s so important to you to have Thanksgiving dinner. Is it because you like to cook the meal? Is it because it’s important to have everyone in the house at the same time? Is because it’s Thanksgiving (the day itself?) Is it because you like the grandchildren to get together? Is it because you like to be in charge? Is it just because it’s always been that way? (If that’s the reason, think again. Always is a very big word.)
Have a frank discussion with all of your kids. All at the same time and place, if possible. Tell them how much this means to you, but you’re willing to be flexible. Brainstorm. Here’s a little kickstart:
- Have Thanksgiving dinner on another day, say Saturday;
- Have Thanksgiving dinner with whoever can come and feel at peace with the dawn of new family traditions;
- Rotate the place from family to family, adding your home to the cycle;
- Ask everyone to come for Thanksgiving evening dessert, or Friday morning breakfast;
- Plan the menu and assign who contributes what.
- Agree to a course of action and smile. I can almost guarantee, at least one person will be unhappy with the outcome. But you know what? Before long, that new way will be the tradition. Someday, before you know it, KnowsIt, you’ll be too tired, or the noise will be too much, or your bones won’t take it anymore, and you’ll want to change. You might find a smaller crowd is much more nourishing for your soul. Another day may be more relaxing. Another home may begin to feel like a treat. Some years, Daisy, you might want a break. Teenager might wear you out. Your budget might be tight.
What other ways might Grandma KnowsIt and Daisy compromise? I bet there’s a hundred ways to solve their problem.