When Adult Children Miss Holiday Dinners
Guess who’s coming to Thanksgiving dinner? No one!
This coming Thanksgiving will be the first time in many years that my husband and I will sit down to dinner without any of our four children. It will be somewhat strange not to hear their banter about all the old family stories … the playful sibling shenanigans when they were left alone, all the meals served with more nutritional value without the grease and piles of salt, the endless wrestling matches, or the stories about the successful antics during church youth retreats. I remember their bursts of laughter at these stories!
It will be our loss, but I rejoice realizing they will spend Thanksgiving with their own family and friends. Their dinner table will no doubt overflow with laughter and fun stories, old and new.
Yet, I am conflicted about this void. No pouting here.
I did not handle holidays so well. As a young mother I thought there must have been some unwritten law/rule/doctrine that said married couples must divide Thanksgiving and Christmas between both families, switching every year. I thought of it as a “Fairness Doctrine.” But fairness became irrelevant once we reached the empty nest stage of life.
I have concluded that there should be amendments to this fairness doctrine. I suggest two helpful words—release and rejoice!
- We must release our adult children to forge their own traditions and memories, free of guilt. If we have invested in building a solid relationship while they were young, as adults they will be eager to find opportunities to gather as a family. They will want their own children to hear those same old worn family stories from another generation.
- We must rejoice and honor their decisions and embrace their family values. Applaud their independence! It is disappointing to hear, “Mom, Dad, we have made other plans for the holiday.” But as the elder adult in the clan, smile and affirm their choice. Besides, if the relationship is solid and respectful it will remain so.
I will no doubt miss this Thanksgiving. However, it may be the time to invite others to our table who find themselves alone. We are planning a long, delayed visit to extended family this year. We will rehearse those old worn family stories with tears and laughter.
I know it will be a good Thanksgiving.