My husband and I come from large families, both of whom gather annually for the Thanksgiving festivities at our respective parents’ houses. This year my side of the family will be with me because recently my parents moved 20 minutes away. I will be cooking for the first time in 14 years!
My husband understands the need to have dinner here. But his family tradition also centers around hunting season. Therefore it’s important for him to spend time there, 2 hours away. He will probably leave early Friday morning to go down to his family’s house. He would like it if I would bring the kids down on Saturday so they can visit.
Here’s the thing: If we all go that would be 13 people in the 3 bedroom house and 2 bathrooms. I’ve brought up the idea of a hotel before and have been met with, “But it’s funner when we are all together.”
Might there be a recipe that can soothe the inlaws, assuming we get a hotel or the kids and I stay home?
Thanks for your letter! Good luck with your Thanksgiving meal-making. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at my post regarding Thanksgiving hosting for a crowd, as it may be reassuring. You can do this!
It sounds like you and your husband already have the beginnings of a good compromise for your holiday weekend—dinner with your family at your home, hunting season celebration at his—and just need to iron out the details. That’s a strong start.
My question for you would be this: how big of an inconvenience is it for you to be a bit cramped and sleep-deprived for one night?
If you feel like this would seriously impact your ability to enjoy the holiday, or function at work/home on Monday, or damage your health (should you have health concerns), I’d gently let your husband know your underlying reasons for wanting a little extra space to rest at a hotel. I’d also offer that you will stay late and wake up bright and early so you can maximize your time at his folks’ place; essentially, the hotel will only be there to provide you with sleeping accommodations.
If those issues aren’t a real factor for you, though, I’d say, “Suck it up.”
Stay at their home. Embrace the fun of the chaos. Prepare to be sleepless, but also prepare for conversation, laughter, board games, movies, etc. Bring a handful of activities that you love and would like to share with them, and be open to their traditions, too.
I’ll admit I am biased on this issue. Every Easter when I was a kid, we’d make a 6 1/2 hour drive to my aunt and uncle’s house on Good Friday, where family would meet to celebrate the long weekend together. At minimum, there were 20 of us in their home; many years, there were more.
I am filled with so many happy memories from those weekends: “camping out” on the floors of every room on the ground floor (cousins everywhere, you could barely cross the floor without stepping on someone), making pancake breakfasts and our big ravioli supper together, playing Trivial Pursuit, going on day trips to fun places at the spur of the moment, because we were all together and could make those decisions. Even doing dishes and making runs to the grocery store were fun when visiting with family you rarely got to see.
By Easter Sunday, even though we were tired and ready to be back in our own homes (and our own beds), we were already making plans for what we might do when we reconvened the next year.
As for the option of staying home, unless someone is barfing, bleeding from a gaping wound, or has bronchitis, take it off your list of possibilities. Yes, it is stressful to host a holiday, then have to pack up and travel two days later on your own with the kids. I get that. Be clear with your partner about what your needs are in terms of logistics for the weekend, then ask him what his are, in return. Don’t create a situation where either of you may harbor resentment later by clamming up and not being clear where you will need some help to make this work.
Once you’ve stated what you need, listened to each other (and felt understood), honor those commitments to each other and jump in to the festivities with both sides of the family.
You ask what recipe you might bring to help soothe the situation with your inlaws, but I would suggest this: if you are making a giant Thanksgiving meal a few days earlier, then packing up the kids solo and going for a big family sleepover 48 hours later, do you really need to cook anything else? I think not.
Bring leftovers—make a little extra of whatever Thanksgiving dish is your favorite, set it aside on Thursday, and let your in-laws know you will be bringing it to their house (especially if they are having a repeat Thanksgiving on Saturday or Sunday.) Carbs are always good for comfort, right? Mashed potatoes, stuffing, or a lovely dessert—maybe a cheesecake you buy in your supermarket’s freezer section—all are good choices.
My guess is that they really just want to see your family, not a beautiful plate of food. Come ready to help prepare meals with them, do clean-up, etc., and you will have done enough, I promise.