Grandparents and the Holidays


While many families have to travel to see grandparents and extended family over the holidays, there are those that are lucky enough to have their families live locally. Although sometimes, having more than one set of grandparents living close by comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to making sure all sides get equal time during the holidays.

I know most of my friends are envious when I tell them my parents live about 10 minutes from us and are involved on a regular basis in my 5-year-old daughter’s life – and that includes regular (free!) babysitting. I know how lucky I am in that aspect. And my husband’s parents and brother’s family live only a mere 30-minute drive away in a nearby town – the same town where the rest of my extended family also lives. However, when it comes to the holidays, this proximity can create conflict over who we spend time with and where.

Unlike friends whose extended families live long distances and have to choose every year which set of grandparents to visit over the holidays or arrange it so the grandparents can visit them, since all of our family is local, we have to negotiate time so no one gets upset or their feelings hurt or feels slighted. Not an easy task.

Before my daughter was born, it wasn’t as much of an issue. When it was just two of us, we didn’t mind packing up the car Christmas morning and driving 30 minutes to see both my extended family and my husband’s family. That all changed when my daughter was born. We still begrudgingly made the trip on her first Christmas when she was a mere month old and we continued for the next couple of years, until I realized my daughter was really the one getting the short end of the stick. Especially once she turned 3 years old and for the first time really “got” the whole Christmas and Santa thing. It was then that I said the traveling to two different families on Christmas Day has to stop, it was too much for a young child who ended up exhausted and cranky after a full day being carted from house to house.

The holidays are stressful enough without adding family conflict, so I talked to my sister-in-law and mother-in-law and explained to them my feelings. I told them I really wanted to start spending Christmas Day at home so my daughter could enjoy it more and not end up a tired, whining mess. They were understanding but still wanted to be able to spend some holidays at their home, so we worked out a compromise to trade off years – one year, we have Christmas at our house and the next year, we travel to their house.

While for me it wasn’t the prefect scenario because it still meant traveling every other year, I agreed to it to not have any hard feelings and really, it was the fairest way to handle it.

We still get to see my parents on Christmas Eve every year and we trade off years celebrating with my extended family a few days before Christmas on the year we get to stay at home. Right now, it works. At some point, we may have to revisit the issue, but compromise proved to be our best option.

My only advice for other parents in similar predicaments as mine, try to come up with a game plan for the holidays. Like us, you could offer to vary each year which set of local grandparents you spend the day with. Or if you’re really lucky, maybe both sets of your in-laws will agree to all celebrate as one big happy family. In the end, it’s what is best for your kids, especially while they are young so they can experience the magic of the holidays and not the stress!

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