Why We're Boycotting Thanksgiving With the Extended Family This Year

For us, it always begins with the negotiations in September and October. Since my parents divorced nearly two decades ago, I have had to manage a giant dose of guilt when it comes to figuring out where to spend my holidays. Even though my father passed away a few years ago, his family is still fair game. Then I got married and complicated things by having to work my husband’s family into the mix as well. Every year someone’s feelings are hurt, someone gets passive-aggressive, and/or someone’s parents have to spend the holiday with their children’s in-laws. None of it is ideal.

This year, we threw a newborn into play. He could have greatly complicated Thanksgiving Day affairs, but it turns out that he was our saving grace. Because on top of the guilt trips, my husband and I would have had to endure lugging our two small children to the dinner. That means packing up virtually all of our belongings for the four-hour event (if you have a baby, you understand this), keeping a two-year-old and a six-week-old calm during holiday traffic, and throwing caution to the wind as we watched naptime fly right out the car window. Once at the gathering, my husband would be chasing our two-year-old, and attempting to get him (a notoriously picky eater) to consume at least something of substance. I would be camped out on the couch, nursing and burping the baby ad nauseam. The mood of the event would be cordial on the surface as we all negotiated the tightrope that is unspoken family drama. We would narrowly avoid discussion of the election, and would smile through any snide comments that escaped our relatives’ cabernet-stained loose lips. We would take turns shoving food down our throats (with little chance that we could all join the rest of the family at the dinner table at the same time), and then bolt out the door before the kids started melting down, screaming from exhaustion. We would get home, put everyone to bed, and then collapse on the couch with a food hangover and debilitating fatigue, knowing full well that in two short hours the baby would be awake and expecting to be fed again.

What we’re doing instead this year:

Only this year, my beautiful baby boy has given us an out. Whether our older relatives can remember it or not, having a newborn is hard. And taking a newborn anywhere is even harder. So this year, we opted for easy. Call us crazy or selfish, but we just couldn’t muster the energy to play the holiday game with our two little kids. No, this year, we are choosing a relaxing, positive experience, on our own terms. We will be getting our meal catered by a local restaurant. And then the four of us will spend Thanksgiving morning watching the Macy’s parade on TV while baking cookies and pie – a tradition I hope to keep up with my kids in the future. This year we will celebrate a major holiday for the first time as a family of four. We’ll nap when we want, go to bed when we want, and maybe even wear PJs all day without having to leave the house once. We will give thanks for having a beautiful home to call our own (as this will also be our first Thanksgiving since buying our house), for having each other, and for having the luxury of choosing where to spend the holiday. All of that certainly sounds more in line with the spirit of Thanksgiving than the alternative. Because somewhere along the way, guilt trips and obligation became the norm, but that’s not what it’s supposed to be about.

Next year, I am sure that we’ll be back to playing the holiday game and packing up our two toddlers for a day of family drama and pie à la mode. But this year is ours, and I couldn’t be more grateful.