I Moved Away, And It’s Hurts Not Spending Holidays With My Long-Distance Family

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“Last fall, right before the holidays, my husband and I pursued an opportunity of a lifetime. Unfortunately, this opportunity included us moving thousands of miles away from our families and into an unknown territory while also not knowing a single soul. It felt like a daunting task with our five young children, but we knew it would only be temporary as he trained for his new job. We knew we wouldn’t be away from family for too long and we wanted to really experience the newfound adventure we were walking into. Moving our children away from their cousins and grandparents didn’t come as an easy decision, but we knew it wasn’t a forever move. Plus, as a family, we got to explore a new state, a new city, and visit the Pacific ocean whenever our hearts desired.

We had only lived in our new city for a few weeks when Thanksgiving came around last year. I wanted it to feel special, despite the lack of those we loved around us, so I went all out. We cooked a 22-lb turkey for our family of 7 and technically in parenting terms, our 5 young kids eat as much a ½ an adult. So really we cooked this huge turkey for 2.5 people. I made multiple types of pies and desserts. I totally overestimated the amount of potatoes needed for mashed potatoes and I cooked two boxes of stuffing that not one child touched. My husband joked around with me, saying that I was preparing a meal for an entire army. He was right, I was. One day this tribe of mine will bring home significant others and babies of their own and I’ll be well practiced in this feeding an army thing by then! Hopefully.

Thanksgiving is this week and it’s the second year in a row that we won’t have grandparents, siblings, and cousins rushing through the door to greet us. If you asked me how I felt about that last year, I probably would have lied and said it didn’t affect me that much…as I hid in the corner spooning pumpkin pie into my mouth to suppress my feelings. I wasn’t upset for that day in particular, but I felt the lingering sorrow through the weeks leading up to Christmas. When you’ve been around your family for your whole lives and then spend your first holiday without that comforting routine, it’s a bit of a shock. It’s probably why I cooked so much food in hindsight now. Comforting my emotions with food seemed like the best medicine at the time.

Five young siblings dressed for Christmas stand outside with their arms wrapped around each other
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

Our families aren’t millionaires and it’s unfortunate how expensive it is to fly during Thanksgiving and Christmas. While I understand airlines have to keep running their business and all of those who work for them spend parts of their holidays away from their own families, I wish it wasn’t so costly during these time periods. Thankfully, this is the last year we have to spend this holiday alone and I’ve come to appreciate this time I have with just my husband and children. Leading up to this day I decided to keep my attitude focused on the fun we can have instead of what we’re all missing out on.

Last year was tough, but this year is different. This year my kids are a year older and while they are still young, they’re old enough now that I can trust them with helping me out more. Or maybe I just never really gave them a shot before. I’m really striving to be the ‘cool’ mom – the mom whose kids are on those cooking shows making apple pie from scratch with grandma’s old recipe. You know, the mom you see on Facebook letting her 2-year-old crack eggs into the bowl. I’m trying to be a lot more lenient in this aspect of parenting. I don’t remember helping my mom out too much in the kitchen when it came to big holiday meals. I think it’s mostly my own fault for not being interested. But my kids? My kids are interested this year and I am harboring that curiosity and energy for this dinner. Our kitchen will be a disaster, but messy hands make the best memories.

But how do I make this a special dinner for them and not just something similar to our typical week-night dinner? How do I involve their family members who live all over the country? How do I attend to their emotions when they ask why we aren’t going to grandma and grandpa’s house or why they aren’t coming here? Do they even understand that on this day millions of other families are gathering in a way ours isn’t? Can this be as fun of a day for them as it is for their cousins who are spending it at grandma’s without them? Is there a way to make Thanksgiving fun besides eating a lot of food?

I’m not sure, but I’m going to try. They are all starting to write words and sentences and they adore the idea of making cards for just about anyone. So we loaded up on the craft supplies and they will spend their Thanksgiving morning writing cards to anyone they can think of. We already have the envelopes and stamps ready, so we can mail them as soon as they are finished.

Last year we watched the Macy’s Day parade and they ‘oohed and ahhed’ over all of the floats and big balloons. So I figured, why not create our own parade? I rounded up some boxes from around the house and set them to work creating their own little parade floats to wear down our street on Thanksgiving. We will wave at the pretend crowd and maybe I’ll even play vidoes of people clapping and cheering to make it more exciting. I bought all sorts of crafts for this project and let them each create whatever they possibly wanted. They only had the attention span for one side of the box but thankfully we have a few more days to complete the rest of the sides before Thanksgiving.

Five young children sitting in driveway painting on boxes they will wear for their own Thanksgiving Day parade
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

Holidays are made special by the memories and traditions we all create throughout our lives. There’s definitely traditions I plan on carrying on from my own childhood but I think it’s even more fun coming up with new ones with my children. Maybe this little parade idea will be a tradition we can continue through the next few years of their young childhoods. It’s been a great distraction for all of us so far and I think any family could have a blast making their own little parade for all of the kids at their own parties.

I’m sure we will be Facetiming with all of those we love located around the U.S. throughout the day as well so the kids can be a part of their big holiday dinner plans, too. Thank goodness for that technology because it makes our home not feel so far away from those we love and miss.

At the end of the day, the most important family I have is the one right in front of me. My husband and my children are who I would rather be spending this day with and building memories with. Sometimes it takes me taking a hard step back and looking at what is right in front of me to appreciate what I have. It’s easy to get caught up in the what-ifs and the ‘grass is always greener’ mentality. We can all find the beauty of what’s right in front of us. I’m focusing on them and this 2018 Holiday season that we get to spend together, just the 7 of us…with our little bun in the oven accompanying us as well.”

Five young siblings stand in driveway in decorated boxes and masks for Thanksgiving parade
Molly Schultz/Tried & True Mama

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Molly Schultz of Tried and True MamaSubmit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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