Anyone Else Feel Very Reluctant to Start New Extended Family Traditions?

Updated on November 28, 2012
A.D. asks from Saint Paul, MN
10 answers

I live about a 4 hour drive from my hometown all of my family still lives there, though my parents are divorced. My DH's parents are divorced, and all of his family lives in the same metro area we live in. A few years ago, DH's cousins and Aunt tried to establish a certain weekend date all the multiple families reserved for a get together. The wanted everyone to block off the same dates (for example 1st weekend in Nov) each year to save for the gathering. It was a disaster. No one could agree on dates, and DH was reluctant to make any kind of long standing commitment. I feel the same way. We finally settled on hashing out dates on a year to year basis for a summer picnic. Seems to be working good so far. Now my sister wants to do the same thing, getting us to commit to the same dates each year and again, I just have so much resistance to making such a long standing commitment. It's not like I don't want to get together. We love all of our families and we do enjoy seeing everyone. We always have some kind of gathering with each family. I just feel like we need to be flexible. I'm not feeling up to traveling over Christmas anymore. Our kids want to be here in their own house on Christmas too. We used to try to rotate traveling years, but now I just want to be done. I don't think my sister understands. Unfortunately, our house is pretty small, so we can only really have my Mom as an overnight guest. Both DH and I, coming from divorced families, are jilted by people negotiating, fighting and guilt-tripping and not understanding they aren't the only families we see over the holidays. Each year can be so different. Kids are at different ages and stages, we can't keep doing it the same way we did the past dozen years. In my immediate family we are dealing with a lot of mental and emotional health issues. Not really what I want to share with extended family. Recenlty I feel a build up of anxiety, which causes me to cocoon more so than in the past. I think making a long standing committment just sets up for unrealistic expectations and resentment. Are we really off here? Do I need to just get over myself and try to get DH to agree to this because it seems to mean so much to other family members? If any of you have been through anything similar, how do you handle it?

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answers from Tampa on

I would hate the concrete plans too. I would imagine that it would get harder as the kids get older and have school activities to work with... If both of you work, that complicates things too since work committments might dictate when someone could take vacation time.

That being said, it's not awful if they come to a concrete date each year. The other family members just have to understand that not everyone might be able to make that particular date depending on what's going on in their nuclear family.

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answers from Springfield on

I would think picking a weekend every year would actually relieve stress. Families don't have to make multiple phone calls every year trying to figure out which weekend, if any, will work for each family.

Look at it another way, if the first weekend in November is reserved for the Smiths, then that's the weekend all the Smiths try to get together. If you can make it great! If not, everyone will understand.

If you pick a date, it will be on your calendar for you to plan around. It's one less question mark in your holiday. That's really why you have family members in favor of picking a date now - so that they have it on the calendar and can plan other things around it.

They're really not trying to "lock you in forever." They're just trying to make the holidays a little easier on everyone.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Our family reunion is always the first weekend in June, after the first full week. It is always the same time frame so that everyone who has to book flights can do so months in advance and save a lot of money.

I LIKE having this concrete thing to plan for. We know it is coming each year and can decide if we're going or not. We can book hotels and save money to drive, one year we took the whole week leading up to it to do family history stuff and visit a LOT of cemeteries to take pictures of head stones for records. We got to visit a lot of funeral homes and get the death information on long gone relatives so there would be no doubts about death dates, addresses where they lived, where they said they were born, was a very fulfilling week.

I enjoy knowing in advance. It just makes life easier. If the family is in agreement with this then they could have a committee of family members get together and decide on a weekend for this to happen. It should not be during the school year unless it is at Christmas. Since every school district has different holidays. It is often best to do it in June so that it is cooler too. If they want the huge family Christmas then they need to do it between Christmas and New Years so that other family plans can be done first.

We have a committee of family members that manage the bank account and renting the facilities, buying food, etc...we have an auction that is compiled of donations from whomever wants to make anything. I often just do a craft that will be cute on someone's shelf. Others work on art pieces all year and those items go for hundreds of dollars. The money is all put in the family bank account and that pays for the facility and whatever food the family is providing the next year. They often will provide all the meats then everyone else just brings sides and desserts. I have gone to family reunions where we had ribs and hamburgers/hot dogs and another year we had roasts and roasts and roasted chickens too.

They try to plan a nice assortment of meats since those are usually much more expensive that the other dish additions.

If a family can just set a date and say this is it. If you come we'll be glad to see you and if you don't, well, we love you anyway. That makes it so easy on everyone.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Huntington on

I agree with you. Now, some of us are planners by nature, (me included) and I am sure this is their way of showing you that they definitely want to spend time with you and they care enough about you to give you some choices on the dates so the get together works for you. But since it is actually causing you stress instead, be honest and tell them "I love seeing your family, too. I feel uncomfortable committing to anything so far ahead of time. Please just let me know what date you pick out and we will try our best to be there." If something more urgent with your immediate family comes up, of course it is ok to not attend.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I think your instincts are correct . . . it sounds like you both had some chaos in your families of origin and it sounds like you want something different for your own little family. There's nothing wrong with that.

I would want to get on more sound footing myself, and then worry about broader family commitments.

The downside is that you may grow apart from some of these people, and when you're "ready" they may not longer be quite as interested. But is that the end of the world? Probably not.

I think it's great to make an effort when you can. But it's OK to have needs and preferences of your own, too.

Good luck, and hugs.

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answers from San Francisco on

I made a change last year because my sister (who always) decides what's happening for the holidays, changed Thanksgiving to Sunday instead of Thursday. Her grown children and grandchildren needed the change so they could go to their respective in-laws homes.

When it was time for the "usual" Christmas Eve celebration, I decided to stay closer to home and it was so peaceful. This year I had and early Thanksgiving with my mother and her friends. I then spent actual Thanksgiving with good friends and I had the best one I've had in a long time.

To make a long story longer......It's OK to make a change in traditions, actually sometimes they have a way of changing on their own.

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answers from Madison on

We "moved away" from home--both my husband and me--and it always falls on us to travel back for the holidays.

When we were first married, my husband's mother stated she didn't mind which holiday we came home for, whether it was for Thanksgiving or Xmas. My father/family perfers for us to come home at Xmas, so for the past 15 years, we've been traveling to Iowa for Thanksgiving/Xmas on my husband's side (always on Thanksgiving). On my side of the family (in MN), Christmas get together always changes. This year, it's Dec 14-16. When my daughter was young, it was during Xmas. But now that she's older, she wants us to be home, just ourselves, for Xmas. Sometimes, we don't get together on my side until after New Years/in January.

Since we're the ones who drive (no one wants to come here), we've put our foot down and stated the weekend HAS to work for us. Otherwise, we don't/won't go home at all. This year, the extended family get together on my mom's side is sometime in January; we won't be going back for that. Paying for driving gas for both Thanksgiving and Xmas is enough to spend in back-to-back months, much less making another trip for an extended family get together.

You do what you need to do to keep your sanity while at the same time, seeing family during the holidays. I myself wouldn't want to have a "permanent" Xmas holiday set. Because of weather, school activities, etc., it's important that my family is flexible on when we get together to celebrate. So far, they have been.

I foresee in the future when the nephews and neices are grown and start moving away/not coming to the holiday celebration that we will cease going home as often (for Xmas). My husband's side has never had any issues or qualms about getting together for Thanksgiving/Xmas, so unless it's a mutual decision, I can see all of us still getting together on that side of the family.

As long as there isn't a lot of strife and headaches/heartaches over visiting, I don't mind the different weekends/times on my side. But getting the weekend nailed down--that can be very difficult. And I suspect that will keep getting more and more difficult as the nephews and neices get older and more involved in school and community activities.

Do what you need to do.



answers from Boston on

I'm a fan of knowing things in advance. An invitation is not a summons or a command, it's in invitation. If it works for you to be at a large family. gathering one year, great. If something comes up...oh well.

One side of my dad's family has been hosting July 4th for more than 50 years. The original hosts died years ago, so another cousin took over and has been doing it for 15+ years. Every July 4th, about 50 of us gather for a BBQ and it's great. In my husband's family, the standing gathering is Thanksgiving. Every living relative on his grandmother's side of the family (30+ people) is usually there. That's another tradition that's been going for about 50 years. My mom has been cooking Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for us and her siblings for more than 40 years. One of my aunts hosts a gathering at her house Thanksgiving night, and anyone who can make it after their daytime gathering shows up. I have hosted Christmas Eve for more than 10 years. Another aunt does Christmas Night at her house, after everyone has wrapped up their Christmas day plans. Not everyone can make it to every event every year and that's OK.

I would just agree to it and see how it goes. Honestly, people move, families break up, people die - there are lots of things that can come up in any given year that can shake things up. Just plan as much as you can and remain flexible if things don't work out.



answers from Minneapolis on

wow been there done that-so I finally made a change-my family(kids) were more important then what everyone else wanted-most folks make the holidays more stressful than need to be-these are grown folks-tell them to act grown-make Christmas be for your kids-something they remember with warmth not stress.if your mom wants to come stay-fine let her.but don't make this harder than it has to be.



answers from Duluth on

I tend to be a planner, but for some of us, planning out Christmas--which changes year to year, and changes with our kids' obligations--would be very difficult. We live 8 1/2 and 6 1/2 hours from family, respectively, and spend the holiday with both of them. It's crazy. My kids have never been in their own house to celebrate Christmas, but everyone would be heartbroken to know that we were skipping the holidays. It ends up being a lot of travel for the kids. Anyway, because we alternate, based on when my kids have off of school, when Christmas and New Year's actually fall, and when my husband can get off work, planning a definite weekend during the holiday season at all would be tough--we also have school programs, church programs, holiday company parties...etc, etc...and committment would be tough. I know someday we'll have to come up with some kind of compromise because this driving 40 hours over hte holidays is getting annoying, but for now, that's where we are too.

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