The Truth About Thanksgiving With Divorced Parents

My parents have been divorced for almost ten years. They’ve been separated even longer than that. So, trust me when I tell you, I am over it. I recognize that their relationship simply did not work out the way they intended and in reality no one was at fault. However, there are still things that sting a little. There are days when my attitude about my parents’ divorce can only be described as bitter. Generally, that feeling hits around the holidays. Usually the holidays are ok. Christmas Eve with one parent, Christmas Day with the other. New Year’s Eve with one parent, New Year’s Day with the other.

Then, there’s Thanksgiving, the only event of the holiday season that only encompasses one day. That means each year I have to choose to spend that special Thursday with either my mom or my dad, and never with both of them. In a perfect world, alternating every other year would be the best way to do it. However, getting family together for the holidays can be a challenge, especially when they are spread out over the country. So, the year you are supposed to spend Thanksgiving with your dad’s family may be the same year a favored aunt from your mom’s side of the family is coming to town. When that happens, alternating years is not ideal. Should you miss out on seeing your aunt simply because it’s your dad’s year? Or should you skip your dad’s that year and spend Thanksgiving with mom to see your aunt? If you do that, what happens to the alternating schedule for future Thanksgivings? Do you go with your dad two years in a row to even things out? Or should you cut your losses and see your dad next year and your mom the year after that?

So, clearly alternating each year is not going to work. Choosing to not have a set schedule is another option. I fall into this group. My family is usually pretty go-with-the-flow about Thanksgiving and who’s going where, although my dad has gotten the majority of the Thanksgivings since my parents split. However, this option is just as awkward and complicated. By mid-October the questions from both sides begins. “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” “Have you decided where you’re going yet?” “Is your father/mother doing anything?” Usually, the answer to all three of those questions is “I don’t know yet.” Without having a schedule, divorced parents tend to assume that their kids are going to go to whichever parent is having a bigger gathering. Maybe it’s because both sides of my family are not the best at coordinating holiday events, but usually both my mom and dad are asking me what I’m doing for the day when neither of them have concrete plans yet either. How could I possibly know what I’m doing if no one else knows what they’re doing?

Despite all of this, I love Thanksgiving. It’s my absolute favorite holiday. I love cooking and all my favorite foods tend to show up on the Thanksgiving smorgasbord. It doesn’t seem fair that the moments leading up to the big day are more stressed than those of the average family. All the theatrics involved with planning out this event leave me feeling some type of way about having to navigate through my parents’ divorce even after all these years. So, even though normally I’m okay with how my family functions, these days tend to be just a little sore.

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