Etiquette Questions, Answered: Holidays and Gifts
Q. I come from a divorced family, and so does my husband. Every year on Thanksgiving, we wonder: Of the four sets of parents, which one should we take our kids to visit this year? (All live nearby, which makes the decision even more challenging.) We try to be careful with our choice, but it’s tricky, and we have inadvertently caused offense in the past. How can we avoid upsetting any of our loved ones this time around?
Name withheld by request
A. Yay for an abundance of grandparents! As problems go, it’s a lovely one. You’re right, though, that this family landscape requires some delicate navigating.
I would suggest that you opt for a rotation system: Each set of grandparents can look forward to the pleasure of your company once every four years. Of course, you may need to consider certain factors, such as how you divvy up other holidays and whether any grandparents will be stranded on their lonesome. (And which set is likeliest to torment you with their disappointment. Just kidding! Sort of.) This year, visit the neediest parents—or the ones you haven’t shared a Thanksgiving meal with in the longest amount of time—then let the alternating begin.
My husband, Michael, and I have solved (or tempered) a similar problem with our folks by adding an extra, low-key celebration the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when we join my husband’s father and stepmother, along with his stepsisters and their families, for board games, jigsaw puzzles, and leftovers. This leaves everyone free on Thursday to satisfy other obligations and to look forward to a relaxed post-holiday gathering.
Whatever you decide, be open about how hard the situation is. Tell them, “I wish we could spend the holiday with everyone, but we can’t,” and give thanks for such a wealth of kinship.
— Catherine Newman