We are fortunate to live within driving distance of all of our parents: my mom and dad, my husband's mom and her third husband, and my husband's dad and his second wife.
When we were first married, we loved making the rounds to all of their houses on Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But then our first child was born, and we started to hate having to spend every birthday and holiday toting our baby from house to house to see each of the six grandparents.
A lot of people would remind us how fortunate we are to have all of this wonderful extended family in our lives. And they're probably right. But after more than a year of spending every special day in the car with a cranky baby, we issued an ultimatum: Want to see us (i.e., your grandchild) on special days? Then you come here.
Seemed like a great plan, until I realized that it meant I'd have a houseful of company every time there was something to celebrate. What the hell was I thinking? I spend so much time and energy readying our home for visitors that I get no pleasure out of what should be a fun family affair.
I slave away in the kitchen preparing a feast for all of these people that we insisted on hosting. Everyone is kind enough to bring something for the good of the gathering, but there's this weird vibe when this parent shuns the dish that another parent brought and vice versa. It's unpleasant.
For the most part, we can all be in the same room together, but there's a tension that really puts a damper on things. This tension plays out unspoken at the actual gatherings — it's afterward, when each set of parents has us alone, that we find out how they really feel about the others.
My husband's dad and wife don't want the other grandparents to be present when the kids are opening their gifts. My parents feel excluded when my in-laws talk about that side of the family. And it's painfully obvious to everyone that my father-in-law and mother-in-law are still quite smitten with one another. Awkward!
Honestly, I hate these gatherings. They're not fun. They're not special. They're a lot of work and they're stressful. And even though our (now) tween and teen daughters love their extended family, they seriously dread all of the company. They'd be perfectly content to hop a plane to some remote destination to celebrate Christmas — just the four of us. Now that's a tradition I can embrace.
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