The Pros and Cons of Thanksgiving away from home

Over the Thanksgiving break we made the trek to Broken Arrow, OK, to spend some time with my family. I found there are some definite pluses and minuses to spending a holiday away from home with a little one.

Pro: Lots of willing arms to hold and entertain the baby

My mom of course can’t get enough of her (so far) only grandchild, and would willingly hold her all day. While we were there Grandma showered Charlotte with love and affection, and even gave her a crotchet lesson or two (Charlotte was fascinated by the yarn, and was very willing to help Grandma unroll it. She was even more taken by the shiny crotchet hook.  As far as I know she didn’t impale herself on any needles or destroy any projects completely…)

Con: Baby may have developed a bit of stranger anxiety since she saw Poppy and Grandma last

We left home on Wednesday around 3:00, so Charlotte took her afternoon nap in the car. That was wonderful. Less wonderful was when she woke up in a strange house, surrounded by smiling strangers whose voices sounded slightly familiar but were definitely not mom or dad. I know she broke my parents’ hearts when she stuck out her lip and started bawling, not allowing anyone but me to hold her for the first hour or two of our visit. She warmed up after that, especially after Grandma gave her a bottle and Poppy gave her a horsey ride on his knees. She took longer to get used to Uncle Matt (my brother at 6′ 4″ is the tallest guy she’s ever seen, and has a prickly black goatee and mustache that Charlotte thought made him look a bit shady) but worked tirelessly to obtain her affection by entertaining her with various stuffed animals and letting her pull on his facial hair so that by the end of our visit she grinned up at him in delight whenever he came into the room.

Pro: When baby wakes up early mom can hand her off to Grandma and go back to sleep

When Charlotte started stirring about 7:30 on Thanksgiving morning, I blearily stumbled down the stairs with her to fix her bottle. Mom took one look at me and reached for the baby, telling me I should go back to bed. I gratefully took her up on the offer, since I had not gotten much sleep at all. This leads us to-

Con: When baby isn’t used to sleeping in the same room as mom and dad, she thinks it means they should play with her all night

We put Charlotte down Wednesday night at her usual bedtime, 8:00pm, and she went right off to dreamland without a fuss. The problem was that when we followed her to bed a couple of hours later, although we tried to be as quiet as possible, she woke up. Having had a nice long two hour nap, she assumed that our presence in her room meant we wanted to play with her. We tried to convince her that we were too tired for playtime, that it was still nighttime and that she should be sleeping, but she was a hard sell. She dozed on and off in her crib for another couple of hours (my super-tuned mommy ears heard every movement) until about 1:00am, when she decided enough with this sleeping business, I want to play. She began babbling loudly, so loudly I worried that she would wake my parents in the next room. Since I was awake anyway I took her downstairs. I didn’t turn on any lights, because I was hoping she’d settle down and go back to sleep after a few minutes. Unfortunately I forgot that my parents’ cat likes to sleep on the couch overnight. I sat down, only to spring up again with my heart in my throat as Cinders yowled and hissed her protestation over being squashed. When she continued hissing I realized that our dog, who was supposed to be in our room, had followed me downstairs and was now terrorizing the poor cat who had been so rudely awakened from a sound sleep. Sorry kitty, I know the feeling. Fortunately Chris had followed Elphie, so he took her outside for a potty break before carrying her back upstairs, much to the relief of Cinders who by now had taken refuge under the couch. Charlotte meanwhile was fully awakened by all the excitement. It took her an hour and a half to settle down again. This time she lasted for an hour before she woke up. It continued like this all night…I despaired of ever sleeping again. We moved Charlotte’s crib into my parents’ den/office for the next two nights, and thankfully we all slept much better. Note to self: once you move baby out of your room, don’t even think about trying to share a room again!

Pro: Someone else plans and prepares the entire feast

My parents are very much of the “make it from scratch” school of thought when it comes to holiday dinners, which is fine by me. We had the most delicious spread: succulent, juicy turkey (my dad is the only home cook I’ve ever known to not dry out the bird), sweet potato casserole that made even a non-fan like me go back for seconds (this was also Charlotte’s favorite dish), green beans baked with butter and bits of ham, creamy mashed potatoes, homemade “refrigerator” rolls, two kinds of apple pie (not from scratch but still super tasty) and pumpkin bars that were far better than pumpkin pie in my opinion. I’m sure there was more that I’m leaving out. The point is, it was bountiful and scrumptious.

Con: The cook doesn’t clean up

All of the fantastic home cooking left the kitchen counters covered with pots and pans, not to mention the china plates and real silver flatware. Fortunately all the china was dishwasher safe, but each piece of silverware had to be washed by hand. It actually wasn’t too bad at all. I washed, my hubby dried, and my brother put everything away while my parents entertained (and were entertained by) the grand-baby. Working together it took less than an hour, and was a very small price to pay for the feast. It was also the perfect way to show our gratitude to the successful but weary cooks.

Looking back over my list, I’ve decided that the pros definitely outweigh the cons. A huge plus was that my mom invited my husband’s family to Thanksgiving dinner as well, so we were able to spend the holiday with the whole family without having to split our time. No con there!! As we went around the table after dinner, sharing five things we were thankful for, I reflected that it really was the perfect Thanksgiving celebration. I don’t know how Christmas will top it, but we’ve invited my family to spend it with us in Arkansas, so I guess it’s up to me to figure out a way. I’m sure the list of pros and cons of hosting the Christmas celebration will be just as extensive :).

What do you prefer…spending the holiday away or hosting it yourself?

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