Yesterday I was thinking about my Thanksgiving Days throughout the years. Specifically, the years after my son’s dad and I separated. My son was 12 when his dad left the household. The separation was not sudden and was no surprise to any of us. Although I had no regrets about the change in our family dynamics, I did feel strongly that, when possible, we should continue to do things as a family.
How that played out over the following years was probably a bit unorthodox, yet it seemed to work for us. His dad was invited to every Thanksgiving dinner and every Christmas morning brunch. I believed it was important for my son to have his family together on Thanksgiving and it was important to his dad to watch him open his gifts on Christmas morning, which meant the gifts stayed under the tree unwrapped until his dad arrived. It was easier to do that because my son was older.
During one of his teen years my son and I got up early on Thanksgiving morning, took a bus to New York City, watched the Macy’s Parade, got back on the bus and got home in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with his dad that evening. There was a lot of food preparation in my house the day before but it was worth it to me because watching the Macy’s Parade on TV Thanksgiving morning was a childhood tradition and I always wanted to see it “in person.” I think my son was less impressed, would much rather have stayed in bed that morning.
My son was an “only,” so there were those Thanksgivings when it was just the three of us around the dining room table. My siblings’ families were growing and developing their own holiday traditions. In his teen years, my son left the table to go to his room and play video games as soon as he was allowed, which left his dad and I to chat over coffee and dessert. It was all very civilized and even congenial as the years went by.
Then there were those awkward holidays when my ex was dating one woman or another. Since I had no emotional investment, they were always invited and often came to Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas brunch. It was interesting to meet the women he was dating, to watch their interactions. Since my son didn’t spend any time at my ex’s house, I suspect it was interesting for him too. As an aside, personally, I thought all of the women seemed very nice.
It’s difficult to be a single parent, to make all of the decisions that impact your child’s life. How to spend the holidays is a case in point. Looking back, I guess our arrangement was the best possible for us since we never had to take turns, or share our son on holidays and, equally as important, he never had to make choices.
My son’s dad has been gone for three years now, and like all of the people that used to sit at my Thanksgiving table who are gone now, his absence is missed. The good news is that this year, in addition to my son, there will be new people at my Thanksgiving table. People to celebrate with and to get to know.