Surviving the Holidays with Blended Families

BradyBunch

By Lorraine Iverson. The holidays are quickly upon us. In our family that means many gatherings with our blended families. Besides the usual Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations we have several December birthdays and there’s also my husband's family's “sort of Jewish” Hanukah tossed into the mix.

I have been blessed with many wonderful relationships in my life and am happy to say that I'm still friends with my ex-husbands, their wives and additional kids. We all share children and grandchildren. We all attend the birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, funerals and other celebrations of our connected lives. I feel fortunate that these relationships which once appeared to be mistakes, heartaches, guilts and judgements have grown into life-long, loving family bonds.

But the one thing that can turn this blissful scenario upside down is the holidays. We've got kids coming into town from all over. Most of us grandparents all live in one city. Which is good...until it's not.

Typical dialogue heard in advance of the holiday convergence:

“You stayed at their house last time!”

“Who paid for your flight?”

“Wait a minute, didn't I cook last year?”

“No, you cannot ask his uncle to join us again this year. Last year he got wasted, puked in the poinsettias and passed out on the sidewalk.”

“What's she contributing?”

“Tell them to bring their own booze.”

“Yes, I'm using paper plates - she'll survive.”

“Can't you just stay here two nights? Three?”

“You are going home when!?”

You get my drift. The grandparent competition is well underway, with five grandmothers and four grandfathers it can get pretty nuts. The adult children feel stuck in the middle of all of it, filled with guilt about wanting to stay with their brother instead of the parents or stressed because they’re not spending enough time with the grandparents that are paying for orthodonture or worrying over which parent really has room for the kids, dog and all the baby equipment.

Pack your bags for the guilt trips, am I right? The stress is really on the kids trying to be practical, keep everyone happy and have some level of fun over the holidays, but the truth is: everyone is exhausted before it even begins.

However, where there's a will, there's a way. So in the light of finding helpful and constructive solutions, here are a couple things we are trying to ensure we keep some traditions, get to spend quality time together and not in end up in family fisticuffs.

  1. Let it go. Grandparents, let go of control - this is most important. Let your adult children make their own plans - what really works best for them and their kids. If they miss the family football game because of naptime, there’s no need for the “family tradition” lecture or passive/aggressive pout again this year.
  2. Consolidate. Combine some of your holiday festivities. Why should the kids have to run from one Christmas Eve dinner to the next just because that’s the way it’s always been done? By combining efforts we achieve togetherness without stress and with less work.
  3. Change up the format. Instead of a fancy, sit-down dinner at 7pm, try an open house/buffet format where folks can come and go as they please.
  4. Pass the torch. Perhaps your daughter might want to cook the ham this year. Being a matriarch is a lot of work. Wouldn’t it be nice to just show up and play with the grandkids instead of sweating it out in the kitchen all day? Give it a shot.

Getting my drift? Let stuff go. You aren’t losing anything. You are gaining freedom and peace and we could all use a little more of that.

My greatest hope for this coming holiday season is that we all have a great time together. And when everyone is on their way home there will be fond memories instead of “thank God that’s over.” Because the truth is we are really lucky. We have a lot of love in our lives, so it's a good reminder of what's actually important instead of  who won grandma of the year.