Drumming in Thanksgiving
Singles advice guru Marnie Macauley has humorous and savvy solutions for relationship problems that arise as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.
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Thanksgiving is around the corner … the smell of turkey wafting through kitchens, cranberry sauce with ridges slithering from the can, scrumptious stuffing, all followed by sleep inducing tryptophan rendering us incapable of helping the hostess lift a dish from the table to the kitchen! The holiday has a noble history and is a time for quiet reflection upon blessings past and yet to come. Yet … for some of us it’s more squash than pumpkin. Let’s look.
IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO
MARNIE: I’m good friends with a group of women who always make birthdays a big celebration. Mine falls on the day before Thanksgiving. Every year, I feel shafted. This year I’ve had it. The guy I’ve been seeing arranged for a party, and only ONE of my pals accepted. The others had excuses (one had her family in for the holidays, another’s going on a cruise, etc.). I always put myself out for others. Now, I’ve decided I “hate” people. I feel I’m doing all the giving and am not appreciated. I’m thinking of “not being available” to teach them a lesson. – No Birthday Cake.
MARNIE SAYS: What lesson, muffin? That the pilgrims should’ve called off the friendly harvest to celebrate you, you, you?! OK, so your Mom had rotten timing when it comes to going into labor but unless you’re under the age of ten, which I doubt, you’re truly annoying me and your good pals.
Getting It! Your Personal Strategy for Friends:
* Get it. Everyone doesn’t see the world the way you do. If you assume the world shares your values, then, of course you’ll “hate” people.
* We are disappointed most, by our own expectations. You set yourself up and then get clunked when your pals don’t come through. Where is it written that friendship requires showing up at your party during a major holiday. Get real, lady.
* Punishing them by not showing up (so there!) works. Yeah, it’ll “work” so well, you’ll never have to go to their nasty parties again because they’ll think you’re insane.
* This “poor me” thing’s about as attractive as a hernia! What with hating people, giving too much, getting too little, you’ve got more drama going than Chekhov.
* Either invite your pals Thanksgiving day and put a candle in a pumpkin pie, or do something that actually makes sense. Re-schedule your haute B’Day a week after or before the busiest time of the year! (Do I have to think of everything? Yes, because you’re only thinking about you!)
And now I shall calm down by “downing” an entire pecan pie. Which is the ultimate in “annoyishment.”
T-DAY & TODDLERS
Dear Marnie: I’m a divorcee with a son, Zach, who’s almost 2 and a half years old. My ex and I have agreed to spend holidays together for the benefit of our son. My very proper in-laws have invited us to their very proper Thanksgiving. All was great until Zach hit the “terrible twos.” He’s usually pretty well-behaved, but when he gets tired or bored it’s havoc! I don’t want to create a family scene with the exes, but knowing them, I’m thinking we should skip it. Any suggestions? – Worried Ex in Santa Monica.
MARNIE SAYS: Ah yes. I remember those glorious days when my son decided to decorate my white sofa with black magic marker while yelling, “Me want psghetti!”
Unless your family descends from the Borgias I say tradition rules! After all, how are we going to teach our little sprouts to appreciate family ties, especially when you and his dad are divorced, if we don’t make them (and us) suffer? So, for you I offer strategies, in the interest of making it to the next Thanksgiving or, even turning this Thanksgiving into sweet potatos.
Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:
Call your ex and tell him you two need to map out a strategy to stay on top of your toddler. You must do this together.
* Toddler T-Day Don’ts:
— Don’t expect Zach to sit like a little Prince William for a royal photo shoot. At this age he’s a motorized darling. It’s called normal. Yes, you want him to behave civilly. But hey … you’re working on it. While even small children can begin to practice sitting still for a bit, asking a toddler to wait out Uncle Blablah’s 20 minute verbal tour of his hernia is too much (for any of us).
— Don’t assign “the problem” to only one adult. Frequently, one parent gallops around screaming, “PUT THAT DOWN THIS MINUTE!” or has the babe clinging to a thigh (yours) under the table, while the rest of the guests talk over drumsticks about Obamacare or Miley Cyrus’ latest antic. Share the load of keeping an eye on Zach so all the adults can gobble some turkey before it’s time for the Christmas goose.
* Toddler T-Day Do’s:
— Do prepare! Prepare! Prepare! Have your ex suggest to his finicky folks to put away the Faberge Egg on the coffee table should our Zach try to crack it open. If it’s priceless, small, swallowable, breakable or otherwise dangerous in grasping little fingers or curious mouths, have them put it away for the day. For fragile fabrics, I have one word: plastic covers.
— Do anticipate there will be times when Zach will be bored, scoot away and want to treasure hunt. Bring toys, CDs, stuffed animals, child-friendly snacks and any other calm-down activities that work with him.
— Do consider a grab-bag of goodies (from the 99 Cent Store) that he can unwrap at designated times throughout the meal. Grab bags are excellent time extenders and tradition-starters, if he doesn’t get too revved.
— Do remove Zach if he does rev up. Armed with the goodies you’ve brought, retire to a pre-designated, child-friendly room where he can play or calm down. Again, this task should be shared with another, so all get to enjoy their holiday meal.
— Do leave before the witching hour: the moment when your adorable tot mutates into a creature with eight appendages and a voice box the size of Sasquatch. Like migraine flashes, there are warning signs. Heed them, and gun the motor.
And before you leave, thank your ex and your hosts. These traditions are part of the crazy quilt called “family.” The tapestry, woven from these years, can grow larger and deeper with each generation and will eventually land in the very hands of our sticky-fingered toddlers. You see, it’s the little ones who’ll decide to either keep stitching – or ignore the design which makes them Very Important Participants.
GETTING THROUGH GRIEF DURING THANKSGIVING
Dear Marnie: My twin sister died in a drunk driving accident six months ago. This will be my first holiday season without her and I don’t know how to handle it. I’ve been going to twinless twin support groups and speaking to a therapist, but it feels like my loss is amplified by the festive season. I know I’m not the only one in my family who is feeling this way. If you could please write me back with some form of advice, I would really appreciate it. –Twinless Twin in Los Angeles.
Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:
Oh sweetie, first my heartfelt condolences. I lost my husband about a year ago, and know the melancholy, made harder with the commercial hype showing happy families around perfect festive tables. The “firsts” – holidays, birthdays, anniversaries are the toughest. There’s no rehearsal. No practice. No method – and no one right way to do it. Even if the loss was long ago, holidays tend to evoke and re-evoke grieving. As with all agonizing times, it helps to brace – and prepare.
* Forget “normal.” Take these days at your own pace, in your own way. However you decide to do the holidays, tell yourself, it’s OK.
* Don’t tear yourself up with guilt if you can’t pull out your old party razzle-dazzle – or even if you can. Say no or yes to festivities based on how you feel. But … make sure you can make a quick getaway if your mood turns.
* Watch salving the hurt with too many people, drugs, or alcohol. You need some clear solo time to think, cry, bolster — and take care of you.
* Ignore the “shoulda, oughtas.” The last thing you need is truly rotten advice from “pals” who’ve taken it upon themselves to declare your mourning over and insist you “get on with life.” There are no one-size-fits-all rules about grieving — or timing.
* When the pain comes, often in waves, allow yourself to ride with it.
* I do suggest you organize the day — in advance — with your family, including who’ll you’ll be with and where. Choose comfort and kinship over obligation.
* While you’ll keep some traditions, changing or adding a few can help. For example, during the holidays, I make a special point to set aside time to celebrate my late husband. You might make a special toast, make a donation in her name to charity, go around the table and let each say a few words or tell a story, or take out photos — whatever is comfortable for you and the family. Carving out a special time and way to acknowledge your loss will allow you to express the grief, the connection and then, once done, you can get on with the day.
* Believe in time. Believe you will laugh again, enjoy again, live fully again — but differently.
Most of all darling, give yourself permission to grow. Do you feel the wind and that gentle rustle? Think of it as the sound of your sister nudging you to live life full-out, knowing you can gather strength from the eternal bond between you.
My very best to you.
And to all Singularians, a loving and gracious Thanksgiving,
Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2013 Singular Communications, LLC