As the holidays approach I begin to feel a low grade tension build. It is not the appearance of Christmas displays before Halloween, the cooking, decorating, gift buying, it’s not even the Visa bill that arrives in January. It is negotiating holiday time with my kids now that they have a step family, now that I am a stepmom and soon to be a mother-in-law.
Last year my x-husband’s fiance announced during a dinner, celebrating my daughters opening night performance in a college play, that she wanted the Friday after Thanksgiving as their family tradition time so they could all go shoot sporting clays as a family. The words tradition and family spoken in the same sentence, to my children, by a woman I had only met that night struck me as odd. Odd is being kind. I thought it was presumptuous, inconsiderate, thoughtless and just wrong.
But so it goes with divorces and remarriages. I told myself I had better get used to it, that it could’ve been worse, she could be lobbying for Thanksgiving Day. I reminded myself I used to have to do my x-husbands bidding and now Patty (yes, my x is remarrying a woman named Patty, who lives in Boswell, PA. Just too weird) is speaking for him.
I would not have been as offended if he had made the request, parent to parent, since in my book of etiquette, parents have equal rights to holiday requests. Future stepmothers do not.
Last Thanksgiving came and went. I prepared all the foods my kids had come to love over the years. My father’s family’s Alabama corn bread stuffing, my mom’s creamed onions and cranberry bread, my ex-sister-in-law’s garlic green beans, the table lovingly set with grandma’s china that I grew up eating holiday meals on, with Mama B’s hand crocheted ecru tablecloth providing the foundation for the feast.
A beautiful, exhausting day. A week’s worth of prep. An hour’s worth of eating. I am not the first mom to experience this imbalance, nor the last. I will live to do it again and again, gracefully for as long as I can.
As these holidays approach and I begin to make plans, the juggling begins. I can’t help but feel bad for the kids. I remember all the running between families when I was newly married and there were no step families involved, just in-laws. Leaving one holiday table, to feign hunger at the next full course meal, thankful that my young metabolism could manage all those mashed potatoes and homemade pies and cookies without increasing my pants size come the new year. (Not so anymore…I really feel bad about that!)
This conglomerate of blended families at the holidays is challenging, at best, to navigate. With expectations building the compromise begins, again.