Thanksgiving. No, it’s not November …or even the 4th quarter of the year (or 2nd or 3rd for that matter). It’s January. But tonight we watched an episode of the tv show, This Is Us, that was all about Thanksgiving, traditions and the family dynamic.
In the episode, a family is stressed and dreading heading to their parents home because the mom always nitpicks everything, which turns the daughter into an on-edge, tense, crabby person and, at the end of the day, they are all expecting to be miserable. (That was a really long, most likely run-on sentence … but whatev.) Lucky for them, their drive is postponed by a flat tire and the dreaded family gathering turns into a legendary hotel stay that births new traditions.
This made me think of my own family and how we’ve shifted a few things since having a child. Some difficult, but needed changes like no longer spending the night at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve so our daughter could wake up to her own tree in her own living room Christmas morning. It felt like I was intentionally excluding my parents and I missed it dearly at first, but what a great new tradition we have formed. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Then there were some other choices that were super easy for us to make, but not without some passive (and not-so passive) aggressive comments from friends and fam.
The majority of our family still live in Florida while we’ve been Tennessee residents for almost 2 decades (wow). We travel down 2-3 times a year and it used to be a lot like the This Is Us Thanksgiving trip …dreaded and stressful. With so many people asking (read: expecting/demanding) our time, a 4 day “vacation” felt more like a 3-ring circus. Driving here and there and separating so we could divide and conquer while I avoided certain members of her family and she avoided some of mine and our poor daughter getting shuffled back and forth between too snappy parents. Then we’d load back up in the car and drive 11 hours back to TN where we felt like we needed a vacation from our vacation.
Well, no more.
A few years back we had a trip planned and we decided that on THIS trip, we would not see anyone out of obligation. We would only see those we truly wanted to, but give everyone else one group dinner out where they could come see us if they wanted to. We set the time and place and if they couldn’t make it, they couldn’t make it. You would not believe the number of people who feel it’s ok for use to drive 11 hours to visit them, but they can’t drive 30 minutes to see us. Eye-opening. Why were we bending over backward all those years for people we loved, but didn’t “need” to fit into our always busy schedule?!
That trip was the BEST Florida vacation. We had plenty of time to visit those we really drove 11 hours to see and even fit in some random fun stuff along the way. It was relaxing. It was fun. It was a vacation! So now, all of our trips are planned the same way. That’s not to say we don’t occasionally squeeze in a meal out of “obligation”, but when we do, we enjoy catching up because it’s been so long and we’re not sitting there resenting them for taking up our time EVERY.SINGLE.TRIP!
All that to say… learn that it’s ok to make yourself and your family a priority. Those who bitch and moan are the ones who don’t have your best interest at heart. The ones who truly love you, understand and are usually the ones telling you to not go to any trouble trying to see them. Which is why we see them as much as we can.
Be good to yourself and you’ll be good to others.