Making The Kids Happy

PennyDecember 27, 2001

What a holiday season! Our oldest son and his wife chose last year to visit us on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas day. Their holiday season is SO hectic they wanted to spend the day at home with their three kids. I thought it was just fine and supported them even though our other two children thought it was horrible. They reacted this year by demanding their OWN celebrations, too. Second son wanted Christmas Day brunch from 11 to 3. Daughter wanted Christmas Day dinner from 4 to 8. They compromised on noon to 3:30 and 3:30 to 8. The noon - 3:30 family was annoyed that we didn't open gifts until the 3 - 8 shift arrived. (DH insisted the kids all be together for opening gifts. He's still not happy oldest son and family come on Christmas Eve. The only good thing about it is when our kids were small we always celebrated Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day so it reminds us of the old days.) I made and cleaned up Christmas Eve dinner. I made and cleaned up a big Christmas Brunch. I copped out with Christmas Day dinner and served salad, baked potatoes and filet mignon. (No complaints, though.) The work and expense of this is just TOO much for me! I can't have us all on Christmas Eve because second son and daughter both have traditions with the other side of the family. I can't switch to a Sunday near Christmas because second son and daughter want to be here for Christmas Day. I can't demand everyone be here on Christmas Day because oldest son wants the day for his own family. What am I to do?

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Not easy. We insist on Christmas Eve as our 'own' time, then Christmas morning, I make a nice breakfast for my bunch, then we hop into the car and drive an hour and a half to get to the 3:00 dinner my side of the family has; then, after gobbling that spread, we hop back into the car to make the drive home to visit DH's parents--and another dinner at 6:00. I find that regardless of the inconvenience and expense, it's just better to fit everyone in. It's only one day a year and I do enjoy seeing everyone--wouldn't be the same if we left someone out.

May I make a suggestion for next year? Do something 'big' that's not a lot of work for Christmas Eve--maybe a large roast. Brunch is no problem--lots of foods you can do ahead of time that are delicious, 'fancy' and relatively inexpensive. Then, do something simple with the leftovers from the evening before--fajitas from leftover beef, chicken or turkey; or Chicken Parmesan Pizza; or make a couple of large lasagnas and serve one each night with different side dishes so you and your husband have a bit of variety.

Or, put your foot down and invite them all for brunch--take it or leave it.

All we can do is try to work out the best compromises--good luck to you.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 12:43PM
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How would you feel if your parents or in-laws suggested coming to your house instead of hosting for you? I'm considering it for next year.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 3:04PM
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I guess it's time for you and your husband to realize that it may not be possible to get the whole family together at once. Your kids can't just blow off their inlaws and vice versa. We don't hae Christmas dinner with my parents or Jer's mom. We have it with his Dad and step mom and his step brothers, nieces and nephews. That's fine with everyone. We fit in where we can and it depends on who asks us to be at their house for whatever meal. You also can't refuse to let one group open their presents if they have somewhere else to go. Your kids aren't little anymore, they are adults and it's time to let go. What did your parents do in yoru situation?


    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 3:06PM
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Penny, as a general answer, I'd be happy to prepare Christmas dinner. As a specific answer--it can't happen because my brother can't come to my home (the cats give him an asthma attack). Actually, my sister and her boyfriend are the ones who host Christmas--we've solved the 'who' problem by letting those who have the youngest children have Christmas at their home so the kids can enjoy their toys, and my other sister has Thanksgiving--I bring the desserts. Years ago, we took the burden of preparing all the food for a horde from my mother's shoulders.

Here's the roadblock I think you're going to encounter if you suggest that the kids host--if one of the kids has Christmas dinner, how will they have time to leave to go see the other side of the family? Let's say I had everyone over for Christmas dinner, I'd have to toss them out so we could go to the in-laws (and I can't have both groups at once--long story).

If I could make one suggestion--early next year, maybe Sept. or Oct, why not sit down with everyone and ask for suggestions as to how you all can have a family Christmas together--that besides being way too much work, you like seeing all of them together. Perhaps one of them may have a great brainstorm--and they might be really pleased at being involved in the problem-solving process. My in-laws have Thanksgiving the night before--mainly because my BIL is a waiter and works on the holiday, but it's a great idea because that frees the rest of us to visit the other sides of our families on 'the day'.

Good luck and hope you've managed to rest up by now.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 4:11PM
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My 2nd son and daughter spend Christmas Eve with their in-laws. My oldest son's wife is now orphaned -- both parents dead so there's no in-law conflict. She and her sisters and the families get together the week before Christmas. For twelve years we've celebrated Christmas Day all together at our house without any conflict for any of the families. There wasn't any conflict THIS year, either. They simply wanted the celebration when THEY wanted it and they didn't care about each other or us. It's not always the parents who need to "realize" how life is!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 4:45PM
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So then tell them no. You can't cater to them and then be upset. You either say no and put your foot down or do it and not complain.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 5:35PM
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Penny, your kids are running you ragged with selfish demands, and you're letting them.

Have a family meeting well before next Christmas and tell them when you're going to be hosting Christmas at your house, (a time and manner you can enjoy) and let them plan around it.

The way you've always done it sounds fine - be firm and enjoy your holiday next year. If any of them can't make the time you've set, let them visit whenever is convenient for them, but don't feel you have to put on a big spread for them. Maybe some cookies or snack food available - or a pot of soup on the stove - period. The time together is the important thing - not the food.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 6:25PM
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Why don't you and your children celebrate christmas the weekend before christmas, then everyone can do whatever they want on eve and day.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 6:42PM
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You asked how we'd feel if our parents or in-laws suggested coming to our house for Christmas - I'd absolutely love it!

My mother and brother come to my house - no problem since my brother isn't married and has no children. I'd love it if my in-laws came, too. I don't want to host a Christmas meal for all my husband's nieces, nephews, brother, sister, SIL, BIL, etc., but I'd love to have my husband's parents here. (I would be happy to host a different holiday for all the in-laws, just not Christmas!)

My husband's family has a lot of Christmas celebrations - a separate celebration for each grandmother, then one for my husband's parents, and while his grandfather was living they had a separate celebration for him. That's four separate Christmases, it was exhausting! We've had a lot of frustration with Christmas over the years.

My suggestion would be to set a time that's convenient for you that all the kids could attend if they wanted to, and plan the meal and the gift exchange for that time. If they want to come some other time during the day, you're only obligated to have a meal and gift exchange during the time you've planned.

Or abandon the plan to have the whole family together for Christmas and visit your kids in their homes instead.

I'm sorry you had something that was working so well for you in years past and now is turned all topsy-turvey.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 8:32PM
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