It's a time fraught with angst. For those of us with children grown enough to be married or in a committed relationship--or with adult children whose parents maintain separate households--now is the time of their holiday splits. It's not just the winter solstice and the Christmas-New Year holiday. It can happen in the fall for Thanksgiving, in the spring for Easter/Passover or the summer's Father's Day.
The puzzle is this: With which parents will they spend all or part of a holiday? It's not up to us: They make the choices; we make the guilt trips.
It has always been so. Friends, now parents of 20-something children, remember back in the day when they first married and announced to their parents their holiday "Treaty of Versailles." They would spend Thanksgiving with his parents; New Years with hers and the next year, reverse it.
It didn't work out well. Here's my friend R to tell you why:
"Our parents never seemed to remember where we had been the year before and why we weren't coming this year. They complained a lot about feeling overlooked or ignored. The worst part of it was that my family did Thanksgiving really well--it was the highlight of the year. Hers did New Years really well. But instead of picking mine for Thanksgiving and hers for New Years, we had this system that didn't make anyone happy."
R tells me this to tell me what his married child decided to do. Rather than split the holidays the way the parents did, the couple are splitting themselves. They live on the west coast and come east for a week over the Christmas-New Year stretch. Both sets of parents live within roughly 50 miles of each other. The plan now is for each child to spend a a day or two alone with his or her parents--without the spouse being there.
R likes the solution. He loves his daughter-in-law and enjoys her company but he and the mom also love having their son to themselves--without interruptions and without having to accommodate others. The old nuclear family: alive and well if only for a brief, shining moment. Except for the occasional lunch or coffee together, most of us have had to adjust to sharing our children with their significant other whenever they come to visit. That's as it should be. And yet, to have time alone with our children is a gift, one that's enhanced by its rarity.
How this variation on the holiday splits will work out once R's son and daughter-in-law have children remains to be seen. But for now, R sees the system as a vastly improved version of his Treaty of Versailles--and he is taking advantage of it as long as it's offered.
How do your children split the holidays? (Worth Mentioning covered one variation this week) Love to know and share with others.