You May Call it Chaos but Our Family Calls it Thanksgiving
How do you manage the holidays? This is a question you hear a lot in blended families. It’s also one I am also curious about. Everyone does it differently. Even in the greatest of situations holidays in blended families often come with stress and higher tension. The scheduling alone can require a decent bottle of wine, maybe 2, it just depends on the number of variables you are working with. I’m used to working around and scheduling things with the kid’s mom, but holidays mean adding in the schedules and traditions of the extended family as well. That adds more people to an already complex equation. It becomes busy with a lot of switching and shuffling and attending multiple events. Some call it chaos, I call it Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays.
What Works for Us
We’ve been together 7 years now, so we’ve definitely gotten into a groove with holidays and how we run them. We’ve adjusted, the kids have adjusted, so honestly, besides being very busy, our holidays are usually pretty stress-free. I owe a great deal of that to the fact that Crystal ( the kid’s mom) and I have developed a good relationship and we have no problem working together to figure out holiday schedules. We usually figure out a way to accommodate everyone. For me, there a few general rules I’ve learned to adapt that have helped to make planning for holidays less of a shit show. Lemme break them down for ya.
Stay as Flexible as Possible
This is my top piece of blended family living advice. It’s so important. It is next to impossible to manage day to day life, let alone holidays with multiple people living in multiple households if you refuse to be flexible. Flexibility will get you through holiday planning with a hell of a lot less anxiety, because let us face it, sometimes, things just do not go the way we want them to.
- The date. Repeat after me, the holiday is not about the fucking date. Thanksgiving is not about the last Thursday of the month. It’s about giving thanks together as a family, about making memories. Be flexible about the actual date. Learn to accept that your celebration may not fall on the designated calendar holiday. We usually rotate Thanksgiving Day, an every other year type of thing. This year we switched with Crystal. No one was entirely certain who had last year and I was entirely sure I did not care because it didn’t matter to us if we had them on the actual day of Thanksgiving. We can eat turkey and mashed potatoes any day. This year we will celebrate our larger Thanksgiving celebration the Saturday following Thanksgiving day. Be flexible. The damn turkey will taste the same on Saturday as it will Thursday. Holidays are about the family time spent together, not about a specific date.
- The Traditions. Hear me out. I know traditions are all about consistency and staying the same but heads up, traditions look a whole lot different in a blended family than they do a first family. When I speak of flexibility here I mean in reference to the idea of letting some of your old traditions go because they simply may not work in this dynamic and creating new ones. Blending families can mean conflicting dates and traditions. Sometimes traditions from your family may conflict with traditions from your husband’s family. If your situation is like ours, sometimes it’s not the traditions that conflict, it’s the people if you know what I’m saying. My advice, compromise and make new ones. This year for me this means changing the traditional menu. Since blended holidays often mean multiple events, it means several turkey dinners, and as good as they are, it can get old. So since we are eating turkey dinner Saturday we will be observing Thanksgiving on Thursday south of the border style. Tacos, enchiladas, pico, homemade chips, the whole deal. I’m psyched about this shift in tradition. I fucking love tacos.
Plan Ahead and Use a Calendar to Stay Organized
I do not claim to be super organized. If you have ever visited my house, then you know I am not. However, when it comes to this type of shit, I try my hardest to stay organized. I buy a calendar and keep all things kids/family schedule on it. this year I bought a duplicate one to keep in my purse. I have dreamt about color-coding it but I don’t want to be overly ambitious. In the past few years, I have tried to make sure I save the calendars for reference when we all forget who was where when. It happens more than you would think. I don’t do these things because I don’t trust the kid’s mom. I don’t trust myself to keep it all straight. There are six kids in this house, that’s a lot of schedules to keep straight. Holidays in blended families usually mean trying to fit in everyone’s family event and it gets chaotic. Stay organized or you will drown.
I think the first conversation Crystal and I had about Christmas this year was sometime in June or July. Did we set anything in stone? No. Hell, nothing for Christmas is set in stone yet right now. We have had a few conversations regarding plans since Summer. The point isn’t necessarily to nail down and confirm a date but more to stay in communication and on the same page. We do our best to make each other aware of different events and changes that come up, that way, no one is scrambling last minute to make the holidays work for everyone. Score one for team organization, that shit will save you during the blended family holiday season. I will never understand the adults in these situations who cut their noses off to spite their faces by refusing to communicate or work together, as if that shit makes anyone’s life easier, including theirs.
Lay it Out for the Extended Family
Be mindful of the fact that not everyone understands the ins and outs or the complexities of travel and scheduling with a blended family. Don’t expect them to. I say this because sometime you will want to rip their heads off for not being more understanding. Just stop. Don’t take it personally. I bet you didn’t understand how difficult all of it could be until you found yourself part of a blended family yourself. Sometimes, best case scenario, extended family members only get to see the kids every other year. No one wants it that way, but sometimes that’s all you can swing.
We used to celebrate Christmas with my husband’s dad on New Year’s day every year. That had been his Christmas tradition since his dad remarried when he was a child. Every year when we would discuss the holidays and I would mention that I would talk to the respective parents and do my best to make sure I could swing every kid being there all day, his step mom would get all pissy and proclaim, “Well Crystal knows that Martin Christmas has always been the 1st so I don’t see what the problem is.” In my head, I would call her an idiot but in real life, I’d have to explain to her that Crystal is remarried and they have traditions and her husband’s family has traditions and they might conflict with her Christmas party. That her party wasn’t the only one the kids were expected to be at. Divorce, co-parenting, blending families, it’s all about compromise. She didn’t know or understand that my ex-husband prides himself on how little he needs to communicate with me and compromising is only a thing if it’s not something I ask for. You can’t always win. You can’t always get the entire party of 8 to every holiday event. this brings me to my last point…
Don’t Over Commit
Don’t overextend yourself and learn how to say no. This seems like a dick move considering the holidays are all about spending time with your family, but don’t get sp busy that you forget to actually stop and enjoy the holidays and make happy memories that don’t make you glad that they are over. Whatever your holiday traditions look like in your blended family, make sure they are ones you cherish for years to come. One day they will just be memories. How do you want to remember them?