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Bracing for Holiday Challenges

Bracing for Holiday Challenges

A few days ago, I called the father of my two twenty-something children. For the past couple of years, the kids and I have been celebrating Thanksgiving at his condo in Philadelphia—Christmas is at my house. I had gotten word through the “grapevine” (a.k.a. my son) that his dad was upset about the possibility that after dinner everyone would leave for their separate dwellings, and then he’d be stuck with the dishes.

“I’ll stay overnight and help you clean up,” I offered on the phone. (Staying over would not be terribly unusual, since we have continued to celebrate holidays with the kids for the last 13 years.) Although I can’t say he accepted effusively, he did seem pleased that someone would be around to help pack up the stuffing and refrigerate the cranberry sauce.

The holidays bring different challenges for everyone. Perhaps you are at the stage of life when you go home for every holiday. Maybe you oversee the three-ring circus that involves taking young children to your parent’s house. Possibly you are many miles away from your nuclear family and are spending the holiday with friends. You might even be estranged from your family and looking to spend the holiday in a restaurant or out at the movies.

Though many of us have idealized the way the holiday should be, the fact is that as we get older, our circumstances can change. Mine certainly have. There is also a lot that we can’t control. Our Thanksgiving holiday has recently included just our nuclear family. But the more people there are around the table, the greater the possibility for volatility.

People who have known you for most of your life may have lost track of how you have evolved over the years. But that can also be one of the best parts of the holiday: bringing them up to date.

In my little tribe, we all happen to share approximately the same political perspectives. But if your family or friends don’t, Thanksgiving probably isn’t the time to convince them. (Besides, Election Day is over for the year, so there’s no point.)

Knowing that one of my kids often brings the drama, I try to mentally strap myself in and prepare for the ride. Maybe you have a sibling or a parent or an in-law like that. A little mental preparation may help you to anticipate turbulence ahead.

Overall, I try to be as much in the moment as I can be, and to find reasons to be grateful (okay… later) for those moments when things don’t go as planned. After all, those moments make the best stories—for next Thanksgiving!

What Thanksgiving memories stand out in your mind? Have the family dynamics of your holidays changed over the years? Feel free to share your comments below.

This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on family from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.


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Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and mother of two young adults. Her work has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Religion News Service, LNP Media Inc., the National Catholic Reporter/Global Sisters Report and many other media outlets.

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