In Blended Family Basics, I wrote about some of the core values we follow to raise our three kids in a blended family environment. That approach works pretty well throughout the year, but the holiday season presents a new set of dynamics to address. Even if you don’t have a blended family, you probably struggle to balance the time you spend with extended family and the time you spend building holiday traditions with your own family. In our case, this is even more complex as each of our kids has two sets of family to see, all with their own traditions and expectations.
We support and encourage and want our kids to spend time with their other parents and families during this special time, but it can prove to be logistically challenging for everyone involved. We’re lucky that our ex’s and families have flexed with us throughout the years, sometimes changing their own traditions to accommodate the kids’ availability. There are times when it doesn’t all line up, but we do the best we can and somehow, we make it all work.
To make it easier on the kids and to limit driving and car time, we tend to host holiday gatherings at our house. Between that and juggling logistics with their other parents and families, alone time with the five of us tends to suffer during the holiday season. I don’t say this to complain or to expect change, it’s simply a fact.
A few years back, we realized that if we wanted things to be different, we’d have to be creative…we’d have to create our own traditions. The holiday season is already busy and crazy and full, so we wanted to create a tradition that was low stress and flexible…a tradition we could carry out at any time during the month of December that would maximize our time together as a family.
It might sound simple, but we settled on a fun, fancy family dinner as our tradition. We pick a night sometime during the month of December, get all dressed up and go out for a special dinner…just the five of us. The parents pick the restaurant and surprise the kids. We try to pick a unique place, somewhere we wouldn’t normally go, someplace that helps to create an experience for all of us.
Over the years, we’ve been to Ichiban’s, The Capital Grille, D’Amico Cucina (now closed), Cosmos, and Solera. This year, we extended the evening to also include the New Standards Holiday Show. It’s a special night, full of good food, lots of laughter, new experiences and most importantly, quality time together as a family.
Next year, our oldest will be in college, so we’ll likely have to flex again and may have to adjust our tradition, but we’ll make it work. Tradition is defined as “the practices and beliefs handed over from one generation to the next.” Regardless of what our tradition looks like year over year, I hope our kids remember the quality time we tried to create for our family during the holiday season and that they look for ways to carry that forward with their own families.
What types of traditions have you created with your own family? How do you balance and create quality family time during the busy holiday season?