Like most families, ours has experienced some disappointing, awkward, brokenhearted, holidays. Painful. We evolved from two broken families bewildered by transition: a sudden death and a divorce. Neither event would have been predicted, and both families were struggling to resume a new normal. As we began the process of blending our families, holidays were a challenge.
We attempted, early on, to include customs from each family unit, while creating others that were new. Additionally, we experienced the natural dynamic of change that occurs as kids grow into young adults. Families do well to remind themselves that change is inevitable for everyone. All families. For the first few years, as a parent, we each observed our kids with a heavy heart. “This is not what I would have wanted for them. Kids do not deserve this kind of holiday.” Guilt. Sadness.
And then there was the first holiday celebration each with the others’ extended family. For us, thankfully, everyone was welcoming. Kind. And yet, the stories were foreign, inside jokes didn’t make sense, and customs slightly different. And let’s face it, we really didn’t know these people. We each experienced the sudden wash of “Why have I brought my kids to share this holiday with strangers?” The first time Debi attended my Christmas in Ohio, she asked me, “Why do the men gravitate to one room and the women to another?” I had never even noticed; it was just what we did. Conversely, I thought it was terribly odd that Debi’s family packed up on Christmas Day–the one day of the year you didn’t need to leave the house–to view a movie. It was different.
Fast forward ten+ years. Adjustment. Each year it grew easier, better. Backed by a sense of history, bonded by stories and rituals, and buoyed by a large dose of flexibility.
Our holidays were unique this year. Special to the nth degree. We were privileged to host all of our kids and their significant others, “The Whole Fam Damily” for a Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration. Thanksmas. For us, having all of our kids together, in our home, was a true joy. With three kids a plane ride away, and all with multiple family celebrations to attend and busy lives, it has been two years since we were together for Thanksgiving, and even longer for Christmas. Even though scheduling may sometimes be difficult, our children are blessed with many loved ones with whom they celebrate the holidays. We also understand that their being here requires cooperation. We appreciate their efforts. If blending the holidays allows everyone to be together, and spreads a bit less December stress, then so be it.
In the spirit of holiday sharing and caring, we present a run-down of what we created, together with our family, for Thanksgiving weekend 2014.
Wednesday evening–Chili night at the Cowan’s–Our entire crew joined Becky’s in-laws for their annual Pre-Thanksgiving tradition.
Thursday evening–Full Thanksgiving Dinner, prepared as a group effort, for and by, our family–just the nine of us. Everyone spent the night.
Friday morning–Santa arrived. Stockings for everyone. Pajama/game/movie day. Full participation in the traditional scavenger hunt for the kids’ gifts. This blooms more elaborate every year. We wondered if our neighbors thought it odd to see 7 young adults, dressed in their pajamas, running down our front yard to the mailbox, searching for their next clue.
Saturday morning–they were all still here–best gift of all!
We will not claim that our Holiday celebration was perfect; we’re too human for that! But it was wonderful and we are grateful. And as the last two offspring headed for the airport, we realized that we had three December weekends to regroup before Christmas weekend and our trek to Ohio. Another gift.
As the Holidays approach, my schedule feels the pressure. People seek help. For many, this holiday may be one of great sadness or perhaps a season for growth and learning. For those, we lift you up and offer you the promise that it can improve. For everyone, we share a small list of guidelines (lessons we have learned).
- Realistic expectations–Forget perfection
- Let go of what you can’t control
- Live in the moment–above all else, have fun!
- Allow serendipity
- Maintain meaningful traditions
- Create and welcome new ideas
- Count Blessings
- Enjoy Gratitude
- Be kind to yourself and others.
One of the activities in which we engaged was working together (and this was work!) to book a beach house for The “Ruegg/Dixon Nine” Summer Vacation, June 2015, following a family wedding in Ohio. Another opportunity for making memories.
Wishing you and yours all the best for this Holiday Season. Peace and joy.
This will be our final post for 2014. See you in January.