Thanksgiving is just a day away and I always find myself reflecting upon family around this time of year. My husband and I usually end up with some of his family because they are only a few hours away and typically his dad/brother come down for the week. Every year I sit at the table looking around at them, amazed by all of the love there. There are never any awkward conversations or family members deliberately picking on everyone’s insecurities. There is always good conversation, great food, and lots of love. I adore Thanksgiving, it’s my 2nd favorite holiday (really I just like food), but my family’s Thanksgiving always involved all of those awful stereotypical Thanksgiving conversations.
“Do you have a boyfriend yet?”
“Look at that volcano on your face!”
“Why are you failing math?”
“Wow, you’ve put on some weight!”
I can remember more than a few Thanksgivings where I went to the bathroom just to hide from it all for a little while and tried not to cry. Why is that kind of conversation a reality for so many family gatherings? It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s completely possible to enjoy a good meal without making people feel uncomfortable and self conscious about themselves. I’ve seen it.
My husband and I have been together for nearly 8 years but every year I am just as perplexed by his family as I was the first day I met him. Throughout the year my husband’s family will just randomly call him up “just to talk”. Sometimes they even ask to speak to me and ask how I’m doing, how’s work, etc. My husband will also periodically call them to do the same. What even is that concept? You’re calling your family just to… talk… to them?? About what?! It baffles me every single time! My husband and his family will just talk about life and what’s going on – simple, normal things. That’s so strange and foreign to me!
My husband’s family doesn’t just stop at phone calls. They will even take trips down to where we live and visit just because they miss us (I’m sure us living in sunny San Diego helps too). Even if they can only stay for a day or two, they take the opportunity to see us. My husband’s mom especially. In fact, she tried to make it here to visit us on Friday after Thanksgiving, but since the weather over the mountain has been so awful, unfortunately she can’t make it. The woman is so caring and loving that she even took me in when I was kicked out of my own house when my husband and I were only dating. I am so very thankful to have a mother in law like her.
In contrast, My family (aside from my sister) has never once come to visit just because they missed us. There’s usually some underlying motive beneath a visit from them. For instance, my mom’s fiance has family who lives in San Diego as well. So they come to visit his family and stay/spend the most time with them. My dad visited once, but only because he had some work to do here.
The family I come from has never been very close to each other. I never told my parents anything and I still am that way. My extended family is spread out all across the country, so I have rarely seen my cousins, aunts/uncles, or grandparents. I moved to another state when I was 19 and after the transition I’ve only seen my family once or twice a year, which is okay with me. Frankly, we all get along better when we’re apart. My mom and I always butt heads and I haven’t had a personal conversation with my dad in well over ten years. My sister and I are closer, but I still don’t tell her everything and I’m sure she doesn’t tell me everything either. I rarely ever speak to my family on the phone unless it’s someone’s birthday. Usually if we have to communicate we just text each other and even that is few and far between. I’ve never had what my husband has with his parents and if my parents call me I think it’s because someone is dead or something important is going on. Of course we care for each other, but it doesn’t seem to be on the same level that my husband’s family is on. I’ve always been so closed off to everyone around me, including my family, and it amazes me that my husband’s family is so open with each other. Basically, my family is close to the polar opposite of my husband’s family.
With that being said, the dynamic is so strange for me and 8 years has not made it any less so. But honestly, it’s really refreshing to know that there are families like my husbands that actually exist. Families who are always there for each other and are open to talk about anything, any time. I never really believed that was something real until I met my husband. I use to hate the way my family functioned, but I’ve since gotten over it in my adulthood (mostly). I don’t blame them for being cold, it’s probably just the way they were raised as well. If I had never met my husband and his family, maybe I would have raised my possible future family the same.
I just wanted to say that if you have a family like mine and you’re dreading sitting around the table with your family this Thanksgiving, there is hope. Even if you meet someone and their family is exactly the same (there are many out there), there is always the opportunity to start your own tradition/family. If you don’t want to start a family, or can’t, then you can always start having Thanksgiving with some friends. If you have a good friend who is willing to take you to their Thanksgiving instead, go ahead! Or even start your own “Friendsgiving” for all your friends who also don’t like to spend time with their families. Don’t feel guilty if you’d rather not spend time with the people related to you, especially if they make you feel bad about yourself. I’m a strong believer in that you don’t have to love your family just because you’re related to them by blood. Family is the people who love and accept you unconditionally, no matter if they are related to you by blood or not.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be something you are anxious about, wondering what the next thing is that you’ll be self conscious about by the time you leave. However, if you do have to endure it this year, stay strong. There is a light at the end of the tunnel my friends! I’ve seen it and it’s truly heartwarming. I hope you can all find that, or create it. I am so grateful for my husband’s family, in more ways than one.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Fill up on some amazing food!