Time Shifting


One of the results of kids growing up and going to college or getting jobs is that it becomes pretty difficult to get everyone together for a holiday.   Add to that working parents who need a whole  weekend day to prepare the necessary food and cake, and you have an almost impossible situation. In my family, we long ago decided to time shift to extend holidays or to find another time to celebrate when it’s convenient for everyone.

I recall being very stressed out, as the only out-of-town relative, when I had to leave work and zoom down to Philadelphia to my parents’ house for a holiday dinner.  I didn’t want to do that to my kids, especially now that one of my sons lives in Rhode Island and has to travel 2 hours.  The rest of the family members have jobs, some with unpredictable hours. We have adopted the tradition of famous Americans and created the Birthday Holiday Weekend.  If Martin Luther King, Jr. is okay with having his birthday not on his actual birthday, so am I.

This year is the first time we have shifted Mother’s Day.  Because my son’s birthday is May 20th, and because I didn’t want to interfere with all of their other M’s Day obligations and celebrations, we are going to celebrate both Mother’s Day and A’s birthday on May 17th, when everyone is available.  The only down side to that was that Mother’s Day itself was super low-key and felt a little odd to me.  The Rhode Island son called me, another son got me a card, and another one posted a Mr. T video on Facebook, in which Mr. T. sort of sings an homage to his mother, complete with background singers. Check it out — it’s great!

So that was fun, and next week should be even more fun. Several Jewish holidays span 8 days, so they lend themselves quite well to this technique.  We do that all the time, by getting together on one of the 8 craaazy nights.

I am both a nervous entertainer and a person who remembers with distaste all the obligatory family dinners I was forced to attend over the years.  So as the event approaches, I am certain everyone is dreading having to come over, and I am equally certain that the food I am preparing will taste awful.

This is my internal issue – no one has ever said the food was bad, and recently my older sons told me they LIKE getting together, especially because my sons don’t typically see each other outside of my house (sad, but a topic for another week).  I feel I must produce food they love, but I have to confess we have resorted to pizza or deli meat on occasions.

The one food item I produce with confidence is cake.  Typically we have chocolate cake from my grandmother’s recipe, which is truly amazing.  I love making it because it is met with great appreciation, and a lot of sighing and moaning.  For this next gathering, I’ll be making lemon cake with lemon frosting, the choice of the son whose birthday we are celebrating.  Everyone loves this too, although not quite as rapturously as they greet the chocolate cake.

I know it’s hard for all of you young moms to imagine your kids will ever be anywhere else other than in your house and under your feet.  But they will!  Being flexible about the timing makes for a better, more relaxed celebration.  I hope you will consider remembering this and make it easy on your far-flung family when that time comes.

8 comments on “Time Shifting”

  1. I am lucky that my family and my husband’s family live so far apart (New Hampshire versus Philadelphia/Baltimore) that we can only go to one or the other on major holidays (or stay in CT, which apparently does not appear on any maps, based on the number of family visitors we have received). My family decided a couple years ago that we would start doing Christmas breakfast on Groundhog Day, so that people didn’t have to rush off to other obligatory family stops. It is way more relaxing!

  2. Thanks, ladies! It’s so sad to turn a happy occasion into a tension-filled angry one. This was my family of origin’s specialty and I wanted to break the chain. It’s not always perfectly harmonious, but at least we eliminate the tension of trying to be in several places at once, having to leave work early, driving long distances during rush hour, etc.

    I feel strongly that new moms should get to enjoy their own Mother’s Day without having to spend hours with granny, who has already had decades of homage to her momage. It’s the love that counts, not the day it’s delivered, right?

  3. I love this post and totally relate. My husband and I try to explain to our families all the time that by celebrating on an “off day”, we’ll likely have more time, and more attention to truly focus on why we are there. By having a Mother’s Day bbq on Saturday evening for example, we see our moms and on Mother’s Day we can do what we need to or want to do. Same goes for Christmas which for us tends to span a week. Instead of cramming in one hour at one house and one hour at another on Christmas Eve or Day, by celebrating on 12/28 for example, we can spend several hours enjoying each other’s company. Not everyone in our family is on board with this so we inevitably have hurt feelings. Sigh.

  4. I absolutely cherish you for this post. It is so common for folks to feel offended if they are not “prioritized” on an actually holiday. Yet the truth is, if we extend holidays and truly plan for everyone, it is cherished so much more. I love this.

  5. I wish our parents understood this – you are very progressive for understanding this and your children are very lucky.

    After a very disastrous (and I mean it was BAD) Thanksgiving this past year, we decided that our holidays, birthdays and special events will be occasions to meet up with family (cousins and grandparents) AND NOTHING ELSE. I will no longer stay at either family’s house for dinner because we noticed that whoever hosts gets stressed out, the guests don’t have fun and it’s not enjoyable all around. From now on, our family tradition will be to do a quiet celebration meal with just the four of us and then we can visit with the family, in order to pay our necessary respect, on the days surrounding the event. Perhaps it is a little bit selfish and immature to do this, but in the long run, it will maintain peace amongst the family. I will be fine if my children decide to do this, too, because the stress and bad vibes it creates is just not worth it.

    Pizza and deli meat sounds perfect, by the way.

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