Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

My College Junior Won’t Be Home For Thanksgiving (And I Don’t Like It)

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. I love the food, I love not having to run around and buy gifts for everyone, and I especially love the warm and fuzzy feel of gathering together and being grateful. Over the past few years, however, the holiday has changed for us. Extended family members started traveling out of town for the holiday or had to split time with other parts of their respective family. That meant that our little nuclear family had to switch it up a little, either celebrating with friends or going out to dinner. Those changes were initially met with some trepidation:

What would it feel like to be with friends instead of family?

Sort of the same but without the traditional fights from years of baggage being brought to the table.

Will a restaurant meal be as satisfying as a home cooked meal?

Surprisingly, yes, even more so without all the clean up.

This year, though, I am not going to cope as well with our newest adjustment: our oldest son is studying abroad this semester and he will not be with us for the holiday.

I don’t like it.

When it first hit me, I worried about him more than us, of course. Would he be homesick if he wasn’t with family for the holiday or would he even notice that it’s Thanksgiving because he’s in a foreign country where they don’t celebrate? Should we yank his little brother, a junior in high school, out of school for a few days and spend a ridiculous amount of money to fly there and spend the holiday with him? Should we fly him home??

Before I started checking flights, I checked my sanity.

Sure, I recognize a slippery slope when I see one. First he’s overseas, then he is too busy with schoolwork or some internship that keeps him out of town, then some girl comes around and demands that he spend Thanksgiving with her family. Next thing you know, my husband and I are alone, eating a Thanksgiving-themed TV dinner while watching football with the dog.

But, really, what can I do about it? I’ve been in those shoes and missed holidays with my family because of work or my spouse’s family obligations so I know it’s just a matter of time before he will be in the same boat.

Families evolve – something no one tells you when you have little kids. Sure, they tell you things will change when you get more sleep or when the kids are in school for longer than two hours a day and you can actually run more than one errand, but no one explains what it feels like when the kids move on with their own lives. Even leaving for college doesn’t qualify as moving on; they come back—a lot…at least at first. But then, suddenly, you see a change. It’s not really sudden, though; it was happening all along but you just didn’t notice it. Maybe the texts and calls asking for advice don’t come as frequently, or at all, or you notice a level of confidence – and competence – that wasn’t there the last time you saw him or her.

I visited my son in Europe a month or so ago and I cried when I left him. Big, gulping, worse than when I left him at college sobs. It was not because I was leaving him in a foreign country as much as it was because he was perfectly fine and capable navigating this foreign country without me.

Of course, I want him to be able to separate from me and be independent – it’s what we’ve all been working toward but, wow, it’s like a punch in the gut when it happens.

And it happens.

So, you accept the new change in the family dynamic and you adjust, again, until the next seismic shift and so on and so on and so on, always hoping your family, whatever that ends up looking like, will still kinda feel like a family.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

So, this year my son will not be home for Thanksgiving because, geographically, it’s not realistic…and we will adapt. One day, however, he may be just a couple of towns over with his significant other’s family and (in case my kids are reading this) I will most likely be sitting at home splitting a store-bought turkey sandwich and a bag of sweet potato chips with my husband, thinking about the time when we were all together…

Just kidding, kids. You know I would never eat a store-bought turkey sandwich. 😉

(Here’s hoping Mom guilt works).

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A Holiday Miracle

The Thanksgiving season is usually not considered the time of miracles and yet something miraculous happened yesterday. Not the miracle of weeping icons or spontaneous healing, mind you, but miraculous just the same.

Let me back up.

My 18-year-old, college freshman came home for Thanksgiving break last night and within 45 minutes our battle for control began.

And, no, the miracle is not that it didn’t happen sooner.

After several hugs for the dog, a couple quick hugs for me, and a discussion about laundry he disappeared into his room.

I was a little disappointed by his vanishing act but I figured a home cooked meal would lure him out. I was wrong. I spent 10 minutes trying to get him to join the family for dinner.

I was miffed. Shouldn’t he be thrilled to have real food?

When he finally came to the table, he brought his iPad with him.  I told him to put it away during dinner and he responded with the, “I can do whatever I want because I’ve been away at school and I do whatever I want there,” bullshit that every college kid says to his parents when he comes home for break.

I was even more miffed.

And, when I told him that I didn’t appreciate his attitude, he responded with “Whatever,” and a roll of his eyes.

That’s when I snapped.

I yelled, my 14-year-old left the table, and my husband sat in silence.

At that moment, I just wanted my oldest son to go back to school.

I thought I had prepared for this. I read all the articles and blog posts about how to deal with your kid when he returns home for school breaks – hell, I wrote an article – but it didn’t matter.

I didn’t want to spend a little bit of time with him. I wanted more.

I wanted him to want to spend time with us – well, me in particular. I wanted him to choose us over his friends and his electronics. I wanted him to say, “Let’s watch a movie together,” “Let’s play a board game,” or “Let’s go out for dinner – just the four of us!” All the books and articles told me those were unreasonable and unrealistic expectations, but I still wanted it!

Those parents of college students who say, “That’s how the visit home is supposed to be. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s healthy!” are full of it. Deep down, they are just as pissed as I am; they just want to act like they are superior parents who have this whole parenting gig down. Me? I don’t care what it looks like. I suck as a parent, remember?

I know I sound like an infant but watching my kid transition from child to independent adult (albeit one who still needs to borrow our car and doesn’t pay for insurance) is not easy. It’s really uncomfortable to have a child who one day can’t leave you alone and the next day doesn’t want anything to do with you. None of this is new; I’ve been dealing with this since my oldest became a teen but it’s always shocking to me and it makes me kind of sad…or mad depending on the day.

Yesterday, apparently, was a mad day.

But then, just as I was on the verge of destroying any chance of quality family time for the entire week, a holiday miracle occurred: the WiFi AND the television went out.

The iPad my son brought to the table? Useless.

The video games he wanted to play on the Xbox? Unavailable.

The TV shows he wanted to binge watch? Inaccessible.

Was this just a coincidence or did my shortening fuse cause our electronics to go out? Did I suddenly have some sort of power? After all, I have been called a witch before (although it probably wasn’t a literal reference).

It didn’t matter. Just like that, I had my kid’s undivided attention.

“Let’s play a board game,” he said.

A Thanksgiving miracle and, yes, I am grateful.

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Wishing you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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On Your Mark, Get Set, Celebrate

I am one half of an inter-faith couple—the lapsed Greek-Orthodox Christian half, while my husband makes up the Jewish half. What does that mean?

It means that December is a very long month.

We celebrate all of our respective holidays, so this year, in addition to hearing Christmas music on the radio that began around Halloween and negotiating packed shopping malls long before Thanksgiving, we also have eight days of Hanukkah to celebrate—in November. I’m going to be burnt out by Christmas; that’s too long for me to stay festive.

But I’m trying.

To begin, I will start with sharing a smattering of things that I am grateful for this Thanksgiving.

I would like to say that the things I am grateful for are all appropriately Thanksgiving-esque, but they’re not. Not that I’m not grateful for my health and my family and electricity and health insurance because I really, really am. I am the person who walks around waiting for the other shoe to drop because I can’t believe how much good stuff I have in my life and I’m thankful for all of it. But, I’m also really grateful for the inane stuff—like wine and popcorn for dinner when no one else is home.

It really is about the little things…

  1. I am thankful that my husband sucks at this parenting gig as much as I do because I know that I’m not alone.
  2. (This should really be 1a but…) I am thankful that my husband knows that he sucks at being a parent and doesn’t look at me with disdain when I do something stupid.
  3. I am grateful (and a little amazed) that my sons’ friends don’t mind hanging out at our house and chatting with me especially when I am wearing the same sweatshirt that I’ve worn for four straight days—and they’ve noticed.
  4. I am secretly grateful for the Xbox or PlayStation on days when I want to take a catnap on the couch and I know my boys will be glued to the screen in the basement for a good hour…or three.
  5. I am thankful that I have a 5-year-old dog, not a puppy, and that my kids are in their teens. I mean, I love puppies – who doesn’t – but I don’t like training puppies and I hate waking up at 3 am to let them out. Sort of like waking up with babies. I have truly loved every stage of my kids’ growth (even the terrible-twos, threes and fours) but it’s kind of awesome to have kids who can carry their own luggage through the airport, talk to me about something they read in the newspaper, and watch movies with me that aren’t animated.
  6. I am grateful that my 13-year-old finally started showering every day. Now if he would just pick up his towel from the floor…
  7. I am grateful for Netflix and Hulu streaming. How else would I be able to spend hours on the couch bonding with my boys over Psych and 24 reruns?
  8. I am so thankful that I have friends who lack a filter (one friend told me that hers “fell out somewhere” in her thirties). Who else would give me the straight dope?
  9. I am thankful that my kids are old enough to understand discretion and have yet to spill any of our family secrets.
  10. I am grateful that my kids don’t always snap at me when I try to talk to them and that, occasionally, they even laugh with me—not at me.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and Gobble Tov!

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