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The Midlife Sage Says: Blended Families Can Survive The Holidays Without A Food Fight


Your family tree.

It could be in danger of falling over because the branches are laden with sporadic offshoots, new in-laws, old stepparents, and assorted children who share multiple homes. But because of extra care these roots are strong and our tree can hold the chaotic collection of yours, mine, ours, various ex-spouses, and a few confused grandparents.

This holiday season we welcome a delightful baby to the family, and for a splendid moment before someone falls into the Christmas tree or a kid rips off the head of a cousin’s new Barbie, there will be peace in the valley.

Blended families add chaos to the holidays, and planning a stress-free schedule requires maximum organizational skills, saintly tolerance, nimble flexibility, and extra mugs of fortified eggnog.

Plan now for the possible scenarios.

You could be standing in the buffet line next to your ex-spouse, your stepson may demand to bring his mother and her new boyfriend to your home for brunch, or your son’s stepdaughters might want to stay at their father’s place because you don’t have cable television. It’s all fun and games until Grandma throws down her cane and demands to know who all the people are coming and going.

To prepare for the festivities and retain a tiny bit of sanity, start planning the holiday schedule months in advance. The best situations involve divorced parents who can cooperate and negotiate holiday schedules as they decide custody issues involving their children. We all know mean-spirited, immature parents who refuse to budge, and that only hurts their children. These parents should receive nothing but coal in their stockings, and they better start saving money for their kids’ future counseling sessions.

Our blended family resembles a crock pot of beef soup mixed with sugar and spice with a side of jambalaya and a touch of hot sauce spread over four generations.

My husband and I each have two adult children. My daughter married a man who already had a daughter and then they had two more daughters. My son married a woman with two girls and they had another baby in October. My ex-husband lives in the area and is included on family birthdays and other events. Somehow it all works and no one has threatened anyone with a weapon, so far.

There are 14 Christmas stockings hanging over the mantel, and we’ll need to build another one if any more members join the family. I’m uncomfortable with the label “step-grandchild” so I’ll just call all of them my grandkids. They don’t mind and some of those lucky kids have four sets of doting grandparents. Score!

Here are three final suggestions for surviving the holidays with a blended family: First, have a sense of humor because it’s better to laugh at the commotion instead of breaking something. Second, take plenty of photographs to identify everyone because Grandma is still baffled. Third, make time to appreciate the creative collection of characters in your unique family, believing that each one adds a definite spice. In the spirit of the holidays, choose to make it work.

Elaine Ambrose is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.

 


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