If you’ve learned anything at all about me while reading my columns for goodenoughmother.com, you know this; even at the ripe, old age of 37, I still thrive on approval. It doesn’t matter who it’s from really; family, friends, coworkers, the check-out lady I once snapped at and now make it a point to smile at brightly each time I see her so she doesn’t think I’m a bad person.
My need for approval often comes at a price. More often than not, that price is my time. I will agree to anything, go anywhere, do anything asked just because… well… someone asked me. For the most part, it’s a small price to pay, and really, deep down I’m aware of the chance that the sun will still rise if I say “no”, but still, it’s the sun, that’s a chance I’m just not willing to take.
Thus, the dilemma I face each and every year: where do we spend our holiday?
Keep the following facts in mind: I am divorced – that is an instant two family situation. I come from divorce; that brings us up to four families. I don’t make friends; I adopt family, now we’re up to at least 15 options. And they all invite us over each and every Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This debilitating decision making process is one I have struggled with since I was about 18. The boys, they’re perfectly happy anywhere they go – I am very lucky that way. PLEASE understand that as problems go, I should just shut my trap and eat the 30 turkeys made available to me each year.
However, which one do we chose? Will the others have their feelings hurt if we don’t go? If I make the drive to California this year, will I be expected to do it again next year? If I’ve said “no” three times to this one, will they think I don’t love them? If I go to someone on the ex-in-law side of the family, will they judge me the entire meal? Oh geeze, don’t even get me started on the years that Justin decides he’s Jewish or Dominic has one of his bouts of vegetarianism.
Part of me wants to say this is such a difficult decision because we have such amazing traditions throughout the rest of the year, this feels like we’re denying ourselves to start a Thanksgiving tradition of our own. Another part of me feels like it’s my duty, if I’ve been getting up and dressed and traveling to Thanksgiving all this time, I may as well just keep going. Also, I once cried when I was sent on vacation by my boss, oh yeah I did. I called her asking her why she was doing this to me, there was nothing to clean, nothing to fix, no one but myself to take care of and when we’re at other people’s homes for the holidays, I feel a bit like that too, no matter how much I consider you family.
Then again who are we kidding? There is something tempting about rebelling against it all and just hiding in the dark, turkey leg poised to strike, mostly because I’m lazy and the thought of staying in my jammies all day and doing nothing but eating comfort food in fuzzy slippers and a pony tail is damned appealing.
But there’s also something about knowing we’re so loved that we can have our pick of welcoming homes. I adore the idea that people look forward to this time of year and want to spend it with us. And one should never ever underestimate the intoxicating appeal of not having to do the dishes.
Perhaps, just perhaps, not staying at home and spending time with people we love IS our tradition. Just like throwing carrots on the roof for Santa’s reindeer, birthday cake for breakfast, and Thursday nights at the library, this, traveling Thanksgiving thing we do, IS what makes our family special.
As decisions go, being thankful for the love, support, and amazing people who call us family, that is perhaps a tradition I can live with for a long, long time.
What about you? What’s Thanksgiving look like in your house? Are you part of a blended family? Does that mean going over the river and through the woods, more than once a day? Do you look forward to it or would you, like me, rather be home in your stretchy pants in front of the TV?
Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year.