Thanksgiving When All the Kids are Grown-Ups
Life is different when your kids are grown, especially around the holidays. One of my sons lives in London with his new wife, the other in San Francisco with his cool girlfriend. We hardly ever get to be all together, and when we do it’s not for long. This year, as is often the case, it’s going to be Thanksgiving.
Although I learned long ago not to get really nuts about it, here’s the truth: When your kids grow up there’s not a lot you can do for them besides feed them and not pressure them to be around when they can’t. Sure they call with a crisis and just want to be listened to. Or when they get to the place in Harry Potter where Dumbledore dies. They still like sharing books and films and music and politics. We’re on IM and Facebook all the time, so we’re not cut off from one another. But when we’re in one place, every moment is fraught with meaning. We’re going to have to live on the memories of these few days for a long time. So we want everything to be right – not just my husband and me but also the kids.
Should we get theater tickets? Plan on the almost-final Harry Potter? Invite friends to join us or keep it “in the family?” Who needs the car? Wants to go to the gym? Who needs a break from the rest of us? Someone is under real work stress and edgy. Another has to squeeze in a visit with an in-law in another city and we have to be willing to share them. How many people can fit in the kitchen? How many even want to?
A couple of years ago I wrote a piece on my own blog called “I Don’t Want to Be a Turkey on Thanksgiving” where I said this:
I always get a little nervous when I haven't seen them in a while-- you just love them so much and sometimes if it's too obvious it becomes a burden. They are wonderful sons and wonderful people and they tolerate my enthusiasm for them pretty well. Like any family, we've been through a lot together - good and bad -- and understand one another pretty well I think. But I worry about what I do when I'm uneasy - I get way too verbal and my big effort is going to be to keep my mouth shut except when it makes sense to open it!
Since then one of the two is married and that makes temperate, respectful exchanges even more important. The worst thing in the world is to have to choose between parent and spouse. I work hardest to keep that from ever happening, not only about when they come and how long they stay but also about whether we serve beef (nope) or schedule a lot of activity (also nope).
Instead, we’ll hang around a lot. The TV is on the wall in our bedroom so at some point we’ll probably end up there watching a movie. We’ll cook together, read the paper, hear about dissertations and game releases and British politics and California plastic bag bans and trips to Mexico and Milan and even Philadelphia. There will be lots of laughter and moments of quiet comfort. And love. It’s a blessing to be loved – and liked – by your kids, and a blessing to be with them because they want to be with you and not because they have to. I’m very grateful for that – and for them. And when they leave, the house will feel ridiculously empty for a while, then slip back to normal. They’ll be back living their lives and we’ll be living ours and we’ll all be so glad for our family, our times together and our joy in one another: stronger and richer when we part than we were when we came together, however many short days before.
Our own Rita Arens anticipates these days from the perspective of parenting a seven-year-old.
DoriThela reminds us that even grown kids need their parents sometimes.
Penelope Lemov, at her blog Parenting Grown Children, muses on the length of visits the other direction, when parents visit their adult kids.