Thanksgiving with a side of family drama
November 11, 2012 3:50 PM   Subscribe

My family's Thanksgiving has been hijacked by unwanted guests. Please help with etiquette so we're all happy.

Thanksgiving is also my young son's birthday. I DO NOT want to spend all day cooking and cleaning. I also want him to be the focus. My plan is to decorate for his birthday, have a cake, cook a turkey and BUY everything else already prepared from a lovely local market. Easy prep, eat on paper etc. I want to be able to play with my kid.

My parents are very 'fancy' and traditional and full of themselves, and are not happy with my plans. I rarely stand up to them, but it this case I invited them (our only local family) presented them with my plans, and they're not happy "But what about my green bean casserole? But Dad wants my special pumpkin pie. But eating on paper is tacky." Too bad, Kid and his day come first and it's my house. This morning I was told that a grumpy relative and their SO had invited themselves via my father, and it's a done deal. My husband is furious, my kids are upset, none of us want this to happen. We feel like Kid's birthday and our Thanksgiving has been ruined. It will be awkward and stressful and revolve around grumpy relative. My plans are not appreciated and my mom has already told me all the foods etc that she'll be bringing so that we have a "nice" dinner.

How do I resolve this? We want to cancel the whole thing and take Kid out of town or something, but feelings would be hurt. I don't deal well with that. Options? Ideas? I can't emphasize enough how unpleasant the day will be, and how NOT about Kid it will end up in the present scenario.
posted by Cloudberry Sky to Human Relations (74 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
imho, telling people that invited themselves (or were invited by relatives without your permission) that they cannot come, pales in comparison to the poor etiquette of inviting yourself over to someone's house, or inviting someone without the host's permission.

Do whatever you want for your family (you, your husband, your birthday kid). You are allowed to tell everyone else that their holiday expectations are not your responsibility or priority.
posted by raztaj at 3:55 PM on November 11, 2012 [20 favorites]

> We want to cancel the whole thing and take Kid out of town or something

So cancel the whole thing and take Kid out of town or something! The adults should be able to understand that this year -- and it won't be every year, given how Thanksgiving moves around -- you're celebrating the birthday and not really doing Thanksgiving. If they're so full of themselves that they can't see that the Kid comes first, eh, that's their problem. They can get together with the grumpy relative and eat green bean casserole at their house.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:57 PM on November 11, 2012 [92 favorites]

You made your preferences clear, and they shat on them. They don't care about your feelings. Why the hell should you care about theirs? Do you want them to have this absurd power over you, just steamrollering over your carefully considered and reasonably expressed plans? F that.

You get to play any trump you want now, up to and including cancelling dinner. Any fallout from that is Not Your Problem. And if they try to make it your problem, that's just further evidence of being unworthy of your company.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:00 PM on November 11, 2012 [19 favorites]

cancel the whole thing and carry on as usual, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE ON TG.
posted by Max Power at 4:02 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

It isn't a done deal any more than if I invited the local Hell's Angels to your house for Thanksgiving. Hurt their feelings and enjoy it, they are just using you.
posted by leafwoman at 4:04 PM on November 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

Families can invite themselves over and they can bring food and make decisions, but they have to work *together*.

They are coming over and they don't care what you want? It sounds like they'd be happier if you weren't there.

So I guess you could say "I understand that it's important to you to have things just so, and I don't want to get in the way of that, so I think it would work better if you entertained Grumpy and Sneezy at your place, and everything will be on your terms then and I can take care of Kiddo's birthday on my own here."
posted by tel3path at 4:06 PM on November 11, 2012 [52 favorites]

It is a complete breach of manners for grumpy relatives to invite themselves OR for your father to invite someone else without asking you first. The person hosting the event gets to choose their guests, PERIOD, unless they have explicitly indicated that third parties are welcome.

Voting for cancel the whole thing and do for your kid, hubby, and yourself. Tell your parents that you'll consider hosting dinner next year as long as YOUR guest list (i.e. the one YOU create) is respected.

Also, even without the grumpy relatives in tow, your parents do not get to dictate how you serve TG dinner at your house. This is worth standing up for and it's also worth "hurting feelings" over (hurt feelings = wounded false pride here, don't fall for the act). If it's Chinese out of cartons, that is your call. If your PARENTS want to host the event, they can serve the gravy in a 24K boat if they see fit.

On preview, like Max Power said, don't answer the phone, or look at social media if parents/grumpy relatives might use that venue.
posted by Currer Belfry at 4:06 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Feelings are already hurt - yours. Your relatives will surely pick up on this and then are likely to be mad at you for being 'grumpy' and such. The dinner will be toxic and strained. Cut your losses and cancel it. Your parents can host your relatives.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:07 PM on November 11, 2012 [25 favorites]

How about you preemptively have your actual birthday-and-Thanksgiving celebration the preceding weekend and on Thanksgiving Day just serve hot dogs on paper plates and let them have their freak-outs and self-centeredness, taking it all in with blissful Zen repose? A decoy Thanksgiving so that you can outflank them, as it were. No reason why Festivus should only comes once a year.
posted by XMLicious at 4:16 PM on November 11, 2012 [11 favorites]

Call your mum and explain to her that you and husband believe it would be more suitable that your parents hold the thanksgiving dinner at their place with said relatives, as that is how they wish to spend the day. Explain that there was misinterpretations in your initial discussions about your (you/husband/childs) plans which involved a very small family dinner at yours with primary focus on your sons birthday, and that you don't appreciate your parents inviting other guests without discussing with you first, and after discussing all this with your husband, you / husband and son will drop by either before/after/during dinner or sometime on the day to wish them happy thanksgiving?

That way they get the traditional dinner with all the frills and your uninvited guests whilst you get (most) of the day to enjoy with your immediate family. I would just put it all back on them and go about your more important plans.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:17 PM on November 11, 2012 [14 favorites]

It isn't a done deal any more than if I invited the local Hell's Angels to your house for Thanksgiving.

This is both funny and correct. To my reading, OP, you have things backward. You describe as a "done deal" something that doesn't appear to be, and then you speculate as an if-then that "feelings would be hurt" but it appears that has already occurred ("My husband is furious, my kids are upset").

If it were me in your shoes, I would laugh politely at your/my father and inform him that I am responsible for inviting people into my house, and that if he has given a different impression to someone else then that's his problem to fix. If you are a less assertive person then I totally understand that phrasing may not work for you, but I think that same message can be delivered in a variety of different tones and phrasings, one of which may suit your style.
posted by cribcage at 4:20 PM on November 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

I basically agree with what most people have written: as the host, you determine the guest list and menu, even when family is involved. And feelings have already been hurt: not only yours but also your parents', since your description portrays them as being disappointed with your choices for dinner. Your task now is to (1) do what's best for your spouse and children, and (2) minimize hurt feelings but only insofar as it's compatible with #1.

People do get irrational about holidays and attached to traditions. Do you normally have your Thanksgiving meal together, with the usual dishes? If that's the case, you need to approach the subject cautiously, because to them it looks like you unilaterally changed the terms of the holiday celebration. Your reasons may be fine, but you should acknowledge that the change is hard for them and that it will just be this year, because the birthday and Thanksgiving coincide. Unless you really want this to be the start of a new tradition, in which case, best to be up front about it.

If you don't usually have Thanksgiving together, you can use less tact.

In either case, I think that Under the Sea's suggestion is best. They can do the work for the traditional dinner if they want it, deal with Grumpy and partner, and spend a little time with you.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:27 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think you have every right to eat on paper and buy prepared side dishes and do whatever you want in your own home. You are the host.

However, this might be more about unresolved issues with your parents. Look at this piece by piece. Dad wants your delicious pumpkin pie. They want the traditional dishes that remind them of family and the holiday. There is no harm in this. I would not be personally offended by this. It is also no big deal to have seven real plates. Stack them and wash them tomorrow. Or, your mom and dad can do the dishes. is in 10 days. If you are pissed now, there is a chance your anger will stew and everyone will have a miserable Thanksgiving. You can choose to look at it as them being full of themselves or you can choose to relax a little and accommodate with grace and goodwill.

I can relate to your frustration. I have been in many situations where I wanted to cancel and call the whole thing off. I have felt imposed upon by family and in-laws more times than I can count. I have felt that certain family members were needy and overstepping. I have offended so many times and since I would NEVER complain about something like real plates versus paper, how dare they. Most the time my anger is unjustified. Just because I would never ask doesn't mean other people can't ask. I felt like people are trying to control me, but really they just wanted to be with my family and love me.

It's Thanksgiving. Your mom is going to bring side items. They want real plates. This is No Big Deal. I would give them their real plates. Sure, it's your party and you can have what you want. It's also your job as host to make your guests feel welcomed and comfortable. If you're not willing to cancel Thanksgiving, try to feel better about this dinner with your family, even the grumpy ones. I'm betting you will still have plenty of time to spend with your child. You can always set aside another day where it's the three of you and you can get in plenty of quality time with your child.
posted by Fairchild at 4:30 PM on November 11, 2012 [22 favorites]

Another vote for calmly cancelling with your folks and taking your kids out of town for some family fun. Fastest way to teach them they don't get to steamroll you. As the saying goes, "you teach people how to treat you." Start teaching.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:30 PM on November 11, 2012 [20 favorites]

I'm not used to thinking of myself as traditional / retentive, but I'd miss certain foods if they were missing on Turkey Day. I'm also thoroughly acclimated to a family (my wife's) that celebrates birthdays when it's convenient, not on particular magical days. So my suggestion is that you have these two celebrations on different days and let your parents have the pumpkin pie, green beans and nice dishes. This isn't a hill I'd die on.
posted by jon1270 at 4:32 PM on November 11, 2012 [11 favorites]

Seconding what Currer Belfry said about proxy invitations.

That said, do you have the option of celebrating your son's birthday the previous weekend instead? That sounds like a simpler way of doing an end run around this drama.

If you are committed to making a point, then by all means go out for Thanksgiving instead. Birthday parties at bowling alleys are the best, for all ages!
posted by thisclickableme at 4:40 PM on November 11, 2012

If your parents willfully violate your boundaries and you don't do anything about it because you're afraid of hurting their feelings, they're going to keep violating your boundaries. So the question you need to ask yourself is how much abuse you're willing to take and how many ruined birthdays your child gets to experience before you're willing to stand up for yourself.

Also, here's a pro tip - the hurt feelings of jerks don't impact you if you simply hang up the phone without engaging before you start getting upset.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:40 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a son who periodically has his birthday on Thanksgiving, to include his first one. We normally served cake and sang after the thanksgiving meal, and made it lowkey. That having been said, the issue is not the holiday and the birthday, the issue is your parents taking over.

I think you need to call them today or tomorrow, tell them plans have changed and your little family is going out of town and you will see them when you get back. Or you should all just meet at a restaurant for turkey and trimmings and then go back home and do birthday stuff. Because you are just going to be too resentful if you don't.

Now, after you get back and things settle down, I really think you need to plan next time this happens to have birthday fun on a separate day but have cake and presents after the turkey. Spread it out a bit. I do feel your pain on all this, but obviously your parents have certain expectations re Thanksgiving and they aren't that unreasonable-but dictating to you what you are going to do and preempting your plans does not need to happen. And the truth is that relatives do generally expect to get together on that day, even grumpy ones.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:44 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Am I the only one who thinks you are being unreasonable here? This is Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a family holiday. It's one of the only and most important family holidays in our culture. You dismiss your relative by calling him a "grumpy relative." This is a human being who clearly wants to spend Thanksgiving with your parents and your family. I think you should change your attitude, tell them to make a turkey and bring it over, thank your mom for the nice food she's preparing, and be thankful that you have family.

I would step up for my boundaries in most situations but I wouldn't turn someone away on Thanksgiving, either. Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday of inviting your family, and also inviting people who don't have other places to go. Your post came across as really self centered to me.
posted by kellybird at 4:48 PM on November 11, 2012 [36 favorites]

I want to chime in as Christmas baby that it's really no big deal to have your parents bring a few dishes that remind them of family traditions on your kid's birthday. It won't take away the specialness (and, frankly, your kid will get used to green bean casserole and pumpkin pie on his birthday pretty fast). I can't speak to the guest issues, but others have well--I just can't see the food ish as anything but saving you some money. You're still not cooking; you still don't have to do dishes. Compromise seems the best way to approach this. Tell dad no dice on the guests, use paper plates, but let them bring the stupid green bean casserole.

Frankly, your kids are probably picking up on your emotions here, because it seems like a very weird thing for them to be so upset about. If you are so worried about setting time aside for your kid, I'd gently suggest (again, as a holiday baby myself), either sharing a family breakfast apart from the main meal or celebrating on a different day. It's just the path of least grief.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:48 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

(I suspect that some of this angst has to do with your feelings re grumpy relative-would that be correct?)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:49 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you guys can compromise. If you really don't want to host Thanksgiving, ask your parents to do so. Either celebrate Thanksgiving on another day, or your kids birthday on another day.

While I get where you're coming from, I'm a bit shocked how adamant you are about having your kids birthday celebration on his actual birthday. As a summer baby who never got to celebrate my bday in school, I more often than not had a party on whichever weekend was closer to my birthday.

Yes, feelings are hurt one way or another -- but you can either flame this up further, or take the high road and find a good compromise.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:02 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

You're not wrong, but I think this is one of these scenarios where you have to think carefully about how much being right is worth to you. Holidays are an emotional time, and while going out of town may seem like a good idea while you're (understandably) upset, I don't think you want to be sad on your kid's birthday.

My birthday is also around thanksgiving, and I've gotten used to Thursday being the family day. My solution is to throw my own Pre-Thanksgiving on Wednesday (complete with friends, turkey, and booze). On Thursday, we go to the in-laws' and have fancy dinner. I've been having Pre-Thanksiving since college, and it's now one of my favorite traditions.

Assuming that your relationship with your family is otherwise good, I'd try to compromise here.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:04 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another possible option, if you don't want to or just can't get rid of the guests: as a former kid with a birthday that falls during a holiday, I have to admit that I felt cheated when I got a combo holiday/birthday celebration instead of a special day all for me.* Is your kid OK with a combo? Or might it be better to spend, say, the Saturday after Thanskgiving focusing on him and Thursday on the family, since it looks like they may be showing up anyway?

* Not to mention my mother's habit of going around the tree picking gifts out to open later for my birthday. They made it to the tree, they were CHRISTMAS gifts! Don't take them away!
posted by telophase at 5:05 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to cook and clean, why did you say you would host Thanksgiving? Were you planning on ignoring the "it's thanksgiving" part, and just have a birthday party? Because that seems pretty unreasonable.

At least at my house, anyone who is a relative (or who doesn't have someplace else to go) is of course invited for Thanksgiving; turning a relative away would just not even be thought of.

It really sounds like you are not interested in hosting Thanksgiving. Maybe you should see if your parents are willing to. But being angry with your parents because they were acting as though you had offered to host thanksgiving---which you had---is bizarre. Why not let your mother bring side dishes to make it feel like thanksgiving, if she wants? why not make a pie? (you can make it a couple days before.) Or just say you're not willing to host after all.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:10 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

@St. Alia--yes. GR and SO are difficult and unpleasant and don't like children. They have never given me or my family the time of day, and it just adds a layer of difficulty on what we wanted to be a pleasant, easy-as-possible day.

Thank you all for your input. The entire day's plans (traditional dinner food, birthday cake, balloons and his grandparents) were all kid's idea. He will be having a kid party the weekend before. I guess I wasn't clear that this IS going to be Thanksgiving dinner. I was just trying to make things as easy as possible for everyone. I'm frankly shocked at the idea that I'm being selfish. No snark here at all. But I know my complicated family dynamic, and I know what my thoughts and intentions were for this whole thing. I was just caught off-guard with the self-invitees and was trying to make it all good for everyone. We have done 'traditional' family TG for 45 years, I guess it's not time to change the game now.
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 5:12 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I don't think you're being unreasonable. I'd be breathing fire were I in your position.
posted by orrnyereg at 5:16 PM on November 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

As an individual who 1. shares a birthday with a twin sibling and 2. routinely gets her hopes for the day railroaded over by plans that others deem more important, I understand how aggravating this is for you. And I will not fault you for disinviting your parents and the additional guests - inviting others to your home without consulting you first is really rude. In situations such as these, I tend to lean towards fulfilling the promises made to your primary family, (which I define as your spouse and children). If you promised your son that you would make the day his special day, then you should fulfill that promise.

However, you do have a really great opportunity to teach your son how do deal with the situation you described gracefully. Which means allowing your mother to bring the extra dishes, entertaining the grumpy guests and serving it all on paper plates with birthday cake for dessert. If your mother complains about the china and cutlery, invite her to take charge of the washing up.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:18 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know what? In that case you go ahead and have the day you planned, and grumpy relatives can either get with the program or go home early. You inform everyone that your son the birthday boy has requested the day to go a certain way AND THAT IS HOW IT IS GOING TO BE and that is that. If your mom wants to bring food, let her, that's a feature not a bug, but you will be in your home and your grumpy relative and sig other are going to have to be the ones to suck up and deal. Let your dad inform them that they will be expected to bring a birthday present. ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:21 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

And please update! ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:23 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's time to clarify: you want to have a birthday party for your son. His birthday happens to fall on Thanksgiving, but you're hosting a birthday party. You have invited Relative and SO (and only Relative and SO) to that birthday party.

They announced that they had a different dinner in mind --- with different guests, with different food, with different plates, with a different focus. It's okay for them to want that, but it's not okay for them to impose it on you and your household, and it's especially not okay for them to unilaterally invite other people without clearing it with their hosts first.

If they'd like to come to your dinner, great. If not, they're welcome to cancel their plans to spend Thanksgiving Day at your home for Son's birthday party and instead host their own Thanksgiving, to which they can invite anyone they want and serve anything they like and use the fanciest dishes they can get their hands on.

Or maybe you can come to a compromise: maybe you could host a birthday party (for your guests only, not for theirs) and then join them at their home for Thanksgiving? It would be a busy day for all concerned, but the idea shows you're willing to be flexible.
posted by Elsa at 5:25 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry if this is going to sound harsh, but I think you're being selfish. It's a Thanksgiving dinner. If you wanted it to only be about your kid's birthday, you should have invited them to "kid's birthday party", not to "thanksgiving". And family thanksgiving dinner is typically a pretty traditional affair (unless you have a non-traditional family, which you obviously don't), and you're angry because people want to bring food to share and not eat off paper plates?

I get that you want this to be All About You via it being All About Your Kid, but it's not, it's a national holiday. I disagree with other posters; wanting to bring food to a family thanksgiving is not a "boundary issue" to get up in arms about. (In my opinion, neither is inviting more family members unless you've explicitly stated that they are unwelcome, but that's debatable).

You know what your parents are like; they're not going to change for you. Don't offer to host this kind of event if you can't deal with that. Practically, I think you should cancel; this isn't going to be fun for anyone.
posted by windykites at 5:33 PM on November 11, 2012 [11 favorites]

Alia has it: Make the day go the way you want it to go. Day of, don't cook or clean. Spend the bulk of the day celebrating; change the invite time to MUCH later in the day. Let your mom bring whatever she wants; that's out of your control anyhow. Use paper plates with abandon. If you want to shield kids from Grumpy Plus, let them have a movie and a pizza while the grown-ups are eating a RELAXED MEAL. In fact, why make a turkey? Make something you like! Cake for all, later.

It certainly IS time to change the game. What your parents did with their invitation was wrong, and you're going to have to address that with them at some point. They're not correct in putting their traditionally fancy ways on you, either, and in your own home, you have the final say over how things go. If they don't like paper plates, fine, they might not be so quick to unload their expectations on you next year. Be civil, be willing to compromise, but don't roll over because of the words "family" and "tradition."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:33 PM on November 11, 2012

I can't believe I'm coming to the defense of a kid, but grand-parental hegemony must be fought. Take the kid to the zoo, or botanical gardens, or whatever fun place might be open on Thanksgiving. (DO NOT take him to a fine dining establishment, please, because I'll be there.)
Don't let the grands take is in your power to thwart them. You can do it without breathing fire.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:38 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Am I the only one who thinks you are being unreasonable here? This is Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a family holiday. It's one of the only and most important family holidays in our culture.

Uh, your birthday is probably in the summer, huh? I'm a Thanksgiving baby. I spent most of my childhood in Canada and I am old and indifferent to my birthday these days, but even so, I can tell you firsthand, being upstaged by canned green beans, football, and family grudge matches is not much fun.

Cloudberry: it sounds to me like your initial mistake was the compromise between birthday and Thanksgiving. Your parents want to celebrate Thanksgiving. You want to celebrate your kid's birthday. If your parents wanted to host Thanksgiving, you should maybe have suggested they do so, and figured out a way to schedule the birthday party at your place around it - "You're serving at 3? Then we'll have cake and presents at our place at 7:30. That should give enough time for us to help you clear up and to get our appetites back, while still letting the kids get to bed at a reasonable hour. No, I can't help you prep at your place, because I have to decorate the house if I'm going to help you clear," or whatever.

What I'm saying here is much what Elsa said, on preview, and compromise but don't yield. Because this is going to be a thing for the rest of your kid's life, and above all else, you don't want him to dread his birthday week because everyone's going to be fighting and sulking.
posted by gingerest at 5:39 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

One more tip: if you decide to follow the route of explaining that Relative & SO are welcome to cancel their plans with you and host their own Thanksgiving [instead of/in addition to] joining you for your son's birthday, it's probably most productive to be as cordial and pleasant as you can be while suggesting it.

Taking the tone that "Oh, I see what your objection is and I sympathize with it. If you want to cancel coming to our place so you can host Thanksgiving dinner, we will truly harbor no hard feelings" will probably be much, much easier for them to swallow than the tone that "Tough luck, my kid's birthday trumps your holiday."

There is NOTHING wrong with letting your kid's birthday trump the holiday! Your holiday. And there's nothing wrong with hosting a celebration that focuses on your son's birthday instead of on a widely-celebrated holiday with which it coincides, so long as the invitees know what to expect.

But even if you were very clear to Relative and SO about the nature of the celebration, they may not have fully understood. And even if they did fully understand, why antagonize them unnecessarily? It might be momentarily satisfying, but it just makes frustrating drama. The more pleasant and gracious you can be, the easier this conversation is likely to go --- and even if it goes badly, you'll have the comfort of knowing you behaved well while establishing boundaries for yourself and your family. You'll have the comfort of knowing that you negotiated your boundaries like a grown-up and modeled civility for your son.
posted by Elsa at 5:42 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is this the first time you will be in charge of the family Thanksgiving, after many years of it being run by your mother? Which is not in any way to say I think she's right: no, being a guest at someone else's house means you ask the host before you extend any invitations to people like Grumpy Relative, plus you do not bitch about the host's party plans and menu. It's just that if this is the first time your mother has not been in charge, she might be having a bit of trouble handing over control.

Understanding her behavior, however, does not make it less rude.

Honestly, I think the only thing you can do is draw a line in the sand, and tell her that there will be no changes to your plans: she may not bring over any food, GR & their SO are not invited to your home, and if she cannot accept that then too bad for her: very sorry, but she won't be celebrating Kid's birthday with your family.
posted by easily confused at 5:44 PM on November 11, 2012

Just want to counter the people saying you're being selfish; yes, Thanksgiving is an important family holiday but it's your house and your kid and your kid's birthday. You are NOT being selfish if you set boundaries/work to support your child's happiness (for which you have planned) instead of your parents'.

I'm actually finding it kind of upsetting that people are calling you selfish for having been put in an untenable situation not of your making in which you are forced to referee between your parents' inappropriateness and your child's desires. Do what you and YOUR KIDS need; they are your responsibility, not your parents.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:46 PM on November 11, 2012 [26 favorites]

I agree that Thanksgiving is usually considered an all inclusive event, but I also want to say, the next time your son's birthday falls on thanksgiving, don't offer to host thanksgiving dinner. Since they can't bother to respect your wishes in your own home, just tell your parents that you wont be joining them for thanksgiving that year. You can do thanksgiving with them the following year. In fact, I would make it a point not to join them or host on any year that it falls on your son's birthday.
posted by gt2 at 5:47 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If the grandparents want Traditional Thanksgiving Done Their Way, then they need to host. It's obnoxious to take over somebody else's home, reorganize their kid's birthday party, commandeer the invite list and then act all offended when you don't appreciate the 'favor' because FAMILY.

I'd cancel and let the chips fall where they may, unless you want them in charge of all future celebrations.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:48 PM on November 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

If the weekend before is filled in, could you do it the weekend afterwards? Or maybe everybody takes a special day off of work & school so that Kid knows how important it is to you to fulfill his birthday agenda? If you're inclined to go with the "nuclear option" of just completely canceling Thanksgiving that would seem to provide lots of latitude for solutions that don't necessarily involve the grandparents.

I still think you should go with some sort of flanking maneuver: compartmentalize them into whatever sort of celebration they want and let them cry themselves to sleep over any details don't meet their expectations; just meet them at whatever halfway point you want to meet them at and be chill with however it goes down and confident that you fulfilled your familial obligations.

I don't think you're being selfish - you have to draw the line somewhere with people like this. I know the type: they're basically holiday terrorists insofar as "terrorist" can be a term of endearment. They hold a grenade up to your peace of mind and holiday cheer and say "I'll do it! I'll blow it all to hell!" if they don't get what they want.

Rule of thumb: don't negotiate with holiday terrorists. Decide how much you're going to put up with this year, set the boundaries, and let the chips fall where they may.
posted by XMLicious at 5:49 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I totally sympathize with the folks who are disappointed in the absence of certain foods or feel that the tradition depends on XYZ.

Stating that fact to you without following up in the very same breath with "so can we find some way to make that happen by helping?" is incredibly crappy.

So much so that I agree with those above who say you don't owe them anything. I'd stop short of a unilateral cancellation - that feels a little petulant. Far better to say "we haven't allowed for the presence of GR&SO and that's just not going to work. If you would like to relocate somewhere else to allow for that I understand."

To me this sounds like a combination of communication issues and control war. You fight the communication issue by stating things plainly and flatly. You deal with the control war by refusing to play. You flatly say no, tell all involved that if GR shows up they'll be turned away and by the way, since you're the one who invited them inappropriately it's up to you to call them and tell them you misunderstood and it's not going to work out.

Some of this will be pointedly un-fun but it'll beat the total suffering you'll spend from seething and future doormat treatments if you let it stand.
posted by phearlez at 5:49 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Why don't you tell everyone that you're going to have Thanksgiving on Friday instead, because you're planning to devote Thursday to the birthday party?

Or is the Thanksgiving dinner something your kid is excited about as part of his birthday? I know that when I was a kid, more holidays were always a good thing.

I know that doesn't solve all of the problems, but at least you're making sure that your kid comes first on his birthday and offering some sort of compromise.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 5:57 PM on November 11, 2012

As someone whose birthday is also on Thanksgiving- 1) do what YOU want, & 2) stand up for your kid. It took me til age 35 to figure this out, but hey better late than never. My parents are still cranky about it, but too bad. It doesn't happen every year. They can make other plans every few years.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:57 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cloudberry Sky: "I guess I wasn't clear that this IS going to be Thanksgiving dinner. I was just trying to make things as easy as possible for everyone. I'm frankly shocked at the idea that I'm being selfish. "

Well... Thanksgiving isn't supposed to be easy. You're supposed to cook the kind of difficult, delicious things that are only worth the effort once a year. That's what people look forward to. I mean, your family is definitely in the wrong here and if they don't want what you're offering they should have offered to host. Still, what you're offering does not sound like a great Thanksgiving and I'm not surprised that your family wants it to be more traditional.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:58 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

And don't feel obliged to have multiple Thanksgivings just to make your selfish (yes, that's what they are) relatives. I mean, jeez, making Thursday AND Friday Thankgiving dinners? Shoot me now!
posted by small_ruminant at 5:59 PM on November 11, 2012

Oh, and my birthday has sometimes fallen very near Thanksgiving. To me, celebrating Thanksgiving on Actual Thanksgiving is way more important than celebrating my birthday on my Actual Birthday.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:00 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

My husband's family has solved a similar (but not birthday-related) problem in this way:

On Thanksgiving day proper, the family does a number of different things. Some people gather and eat turkey. Some people gather and eat chicken pot pie. Some people go to the movies.

On the Saturday following Thanksgiving, the entire family (siblings, spouses, kids, assorted in-laws) gather at my SIL's house for a more "traditional" Thanksgiving (called, obnoxiously, T2). This is now the "new" family tradition and is a chance for the entire family to gather together and eat the traditional favorites and whatnot. Ok, so it's not on the day, but it fills all the other criteria while also allowing for individual family members to enjoy the parts of the holiday they enjoy.

I'd suggest you propose a "T2" as an alternative. If they like it, then great! Have your original plan on Thursday and then a more traditional Thanksgiving on Saturday. If not, stick by your guns. Your parents are being rude, rude, rude and are, incidentally, telling your son (by word and deed) that they have no respect at all for his wishes.
posted by anastasiav at 6:01 PM on November 11, 2012

So, they are your parents. And your child's grandparents. Compromise. Make a few awesome desserts in the days before (and the cake) and ask them over for dessert. Tell them for his birthday he really wanted to XYZ (your dinner/day out) but you dont want to miss the on Thanksgiving so come over after for cake and dessert. You can make a coffee bar and still have a nice thanksgiving.

Those parents are your kid's family. Keep your "boundaries" but play nice and just get along. Family are like neighbors, you dont pick 'em and the nicer you are to them the nicer your life is, unless they are REALLY crazy and then you have to move away.
posted by beccaj at 6:03 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd cancel, personally, but mainly because if you don't you're going to continue to be railroaded in the future.

That said, my girl's birthday often falls on Thanksgiving and we love it. It means the family is gathered anyway; uncles and aunts that wouldn't have flown in just for the birthday are there, etc. We have traditional Thanksgiving and then cake and presents. It doesn't need to be a conflict. But people do need to behave themselves.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:05 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about:

Grandma and Grandpa host the danged formal freaking formal Thanksgiving dinner at THEIR home. Traditional blah blah blah. Guests selected by them; you bring like rolls or something. The key thing: dinner happens around 2pm (the only issue here is getting up early to roast the turkey, and being REALLY good about having it totally thawed for sure.)

Then you go back to your home, around 4pm because the grumpy relative is intolerable.

And have a) leftovers, b) another favorite food, or c) random snacks for "supper," with Thanksgiving/birthday combined decorations, around 7pm. Followed by cake. Only grandparents are invited.
posted by SMPA at 6:06 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, all. Wow! Thanksgiving is sacred and a loaded topic, isn't it?
The "cancel the whole thing" was a knee-jerk reaction and won't be happening. What will happen is that my parents and their guests will come, and we will all eat Thanksgiving food (as planned--sorry That's How You Get Ants if that doesn't sound like a nice Thanksgiving to you, we're doing our best.) Kid will get gifts, Dad gets pie, Grumpies may be nice and we'll all put on smiles.
We can probably wrap this up now. I don't think I can read much more, as it's provoking a lot of sadness in me. Honestly, thanks for your input.
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 6:08 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Have the kind of Thanksgiving you want, not the kind of Thanksgiving your parents want you to have. Why work hard for a miserable day? They can host the Grumpys at their own home if they want.

It would be one thing if they tried to work with you on this, but they didn't, they are just imposing on your home and celebration. That's not a tradition worth having.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:11 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Once you move out of the house, your parents shouldn't dictate how you spend holidays. I'm not sure why more people don't get this.

So - if they wanted a more traditional Thanksgiving dinner, they coulda/shoulda either negotiated with you and come to some agreement, or said "no thanks, we'll do what we want to do at our house."

Let's take the family and the holiday traditions out of this. If you invited friends over to grill hamburgers and they invited some of *their* friends and insisted you grill chicken, how would that work?
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:35 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

It feels like there is a sub-issue here, between you & your parents.

Let me back you up 100% on throwing whatever kind of Thanksgiving you want: out-of-town, on paper plates, whatever. It's your house, your life, your kid's birthday. Feel free to ignore people who are calling you selfish.

I think I support you in this way because my mom is a controlling person and I have been trying to get out from under her for my entire life (and I'm not in my 20's). If this is the Thanksgiving where you need to stand up for your life, go for it!

It does baffle me why your mom, with her Thanksgiving Standards, just doesn't host the darn thing herself.
posted by honey badger at 6:36 PM on November 11, 2012

For what it's worth, if you told them what kind of party you were planning, and they accepted but then proceeded to want to change the menu, the table service and the guest list, then you are clearly in the right to be annoyed. My mantra when I was married and my parents started doing stuff like this was: This is their revenge for all the times I jacked up their plans as a kid, and welcome to it.

The invitation of the grumpies, I would have dealt with by inviting some additional people.
posted by BibiRose at 6:37 PM on November 11, 2012

So, like, I know it's a problem when people overread AskMes as being about them, but seriously, the more I think about this, the more I think my distress above at being upstaged by bean casserole is really transferred distress at seeing my family angry during Thankbirthday. I think your main 100% goal should be to avoid having your kid turn out like me in this regard - do whatever you need to in order to avoid associating the family holiday or his birthday with big family fights.

Identifying who's being the most selfish is a complete red herring when the actual goal is to achieve a happy, loving, fun, family get-together. (It's not even that useful when the goal is as basic as "Survive this without having this year be talked about at all future Thankbirthdays," or, "Don't scare the kids.") Even if you come away from this deciding that your parents are Completely Wrong and Selfish, if you can see a good path through that doesn't leave you in a great position to show them how right you are, consider it anyway, because it's a bigger issue than that.
posted by gingerest at 6:43 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Which is it -- you're "doing your best" to have a nice (yet somehow also low-effort) Thanksgiving, or you're turning it into a second birthday party for your kid with just enough Thanksgiving trappings to maintain some sort of pretense?

You would have been better off to keep the kid birthday and Thankgiving strictly separated, rather than trying to combine the two. If this is the only possible version of Thanksgiving you were willing to consider either hosting or attending, then it kind of seems like you've hijacked your family's traditional Thanksgiving and are redefining it as being all about your kid, rather than about the family as a whole. It shouldn't be too surprising that they're pushing back by bringing food and family.

But inviting other people without your consent is very much not okay. (Last year, one family member tried to preemptively invite our entire extended family to MY house, thinking this would be better as I was supposed to give birth two weeks before.) I think you're doing the best thing by smiling and going along with it, but I wouldn't neglect to emphasize to your parents that you get to say who is welcome in your house, family or not.
posted by daisystomper at 7:03 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Good Lord people!! This is a CHILD'S birthday on a holiday. I don't really see how the OP saying "it's Thanksgiving on paper plates and with cake and balloons and Publix mashed potatoes" is some horrific slap in the face to mom and apple pie. Birthdays are a big deal to kids and even having a kid party the weekend before, you'd still like some acknowledgement on your actual birthday.

If Grandma wants pumpkin pie and green bean casserole, she's welcome to make it at home and have it that night. On the years we have holidays somewhere other than here, I tend to make dishes I really like to keep at home so I can have "leftovers". I think a child's feelings on his birthday trump the feelings of grandparents and other relatives who admittedly don't even like children.

OP-keep your original plans and let your parents know that things change, holiday plans change as families change and they can either figure out how to accomodate those changes or stay home.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:37 PM on November 11, 2012 [15 favorites]

Cloudberry Sky, the only advice I'd give at this point is that soon after Thanksgiving you state clearly for both of your parents that they stepped over a very clear line when they invited other people over to your house without asking you first, and you expect that never to happen again. Don't get into an argument or engage at all with any whiny or "but-but" excuses they'll almost certainly start spewing. Just ignore whatever guilt or whatever they try to pull and restate the point politely but firmly:

"I'm sorry, but you stepped over a *very* clear line when you invited other people over to my husband's and my house without asking us first, and we need to be very clear that *will not* be happening again. Do you hear me? Now, let's talk about something more pleasant, shall we?"

If they keep arguing, just repeat "That will not be happening again. Do you hear me?" as many times as it takes to hammer it into their lovable skulls. At the very least, you'll have stood up to their controlling in a clearly defensible way and possibly made standing up to them easier in the future.
posted by mediareport at 8:51 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I share a birthday with your son. When I was very young and didn't know the date (I recall specific dates from first grade, though!) my parents just had a party for me the weekend before and didn't make a big deal about it. By age six, they explained that I was lucky that I'd have my birthday off more than most people, but the drawback is that the actual day would be overshadowed by Thanksgiving sometimes. Some of my relatives explicitly told me they got me bigger presents on years the birthday coincided with Turkey Day. (we won't get into how much I heard about how TERRIBLE and INFAMOUS is the date: November 22! for JFK having dared be assassinated on that day. God, I could make a therapist and a publisher rich for all *that* bullshit.)

So anyway, on to your problem. Some people are real assholes about holidays. Even when it means being an asshole to your grandkids. Inviting people without your permission? That's recursive assholery! That calls for a scuttling of the whole thing and a talking down to your mother: "You know better than that! Your feelings matter more than [grandkid]'s?" No matter what she says she's bringing, it won't make for a "nice" dinner because of her bullshit. Screw it, have the birthday party, and tell the little guy that grandma had something come up (which is true; apparently her self-importance had a flare-up). Tell you mom that she needs to grow up, and that Grumpy Relative is not welcome because he can't seem to behave - both when he's in your company and by inviting himself.
posted by notsnot at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Families can be so difficult. One of my ex families was notorious for spontaneously inviting their friends, the Pain* family, to things I was hosting, one time inserting themselves into a small child's birthday party: they didn't bring a gift for the child, and they were critical about my cake (!) I'm sorry your parents spontaneously invited the Grumps - is that the sort of thing that is the norm in your family? (Or are they potentially off their rockers? Or maybe the Grumps were all "Cloudkid's birthday! Oh, we'd love to be there, we'll bring something awesome, we just don't see enough of the Cloudberry family, do you think we could come too?")

I see you trying to make the day as easy and pleasant for everyone, and I'm totally with you - I've done paper plates more than once myself, and buying food in is a big time saver. I think some people really treasure the whole ritual though, maybe your parents are like that. But could your mum do some of the food and save you from doing it, and letting her feel like she's contributing, and whatever she doesn't particularly care about you could go ahead and buy. Can you approach her in a way that suggests you can work together to make this a extra special celebration? (I always think family aren't guests so much as collaborators, it would be ideal if they were on board with everything to contribute to the greater good.)

Are you friendly enough with your parents to tell them how important it is to you for the birthday kid to be central to the festivities, not just an also ran (would they and the Grumps bring presents?)?

I think your kid focused Thanksgiving sounds really nice, and actually kind of beautiful that the kid's birthday coincides with a day that is supposed to be all about celebrating together, and being grateful. I know you feel annoyed, but if it's not in you to have a showdown with your family, maybe you can recast this mentally as them being really, really keen to share the holiday with you all, and not being clear about where you expect the focus to be. Traditions get more and more ingrained the longer they stand, not less, and hopefully you can integrate your family's tradition with your own wishes for your kid. Good luck!

*Another time they tried to bring the Pains to a family Christmas thing, asking my ex on the phone if it would be all right. My ex relayed that no, it wasn't ok, it was to be a family thing only, and the xil got all pouty and actually said "but she's my bestest friend" and when ex finally said, look Thylacinthine doesn't really like Mrs Pain, the xil said that Mrs Pain didn't really like me, either! And then I didn't feel guilty for saying NO MRS PAIN.
posted by thylacinthine at 9:43 PM on November 11, 2012

I dont have an opinion on what you should do, I just want to send you hugs and tell you I don't think you're selfish at all. It sounds like you're trying your best to make everyone happy in a difficult family that doesn't seem to consider your feelings much. Once this is all over I hope you'll get a chance to relax and do something that's just for you like a massage or an afternoon on your own just hanging out doing nothing. In the meantime im sure youll get through it gracefully.
posted by hazyjane at 1:22 AM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think you're selfish, either. I think a lot of times AskMe has a very 'family at all costs' attitude that is very difficult for those of us who have more complicated relationships with our parents.

Your thanksgiving sounds lovely, and if your mom wanted the whole shebang with the Good China and all the quarrelsome relatives she should have hosted it herself.
posted by winna at 4:31 AM on November 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

Let me get this straight: Kid told you that he'd like his thankbirtbday to be just y'all and grandparents, with cake afterwards. You decided to outsource the sides, so you could spend the day actually with family. For the same reason, the china is of the paper variety. Got it.
Then, you told grandparents the kind of event you were having, and invited them. They accepted. Cool.
Next, they decide to change the menu. Ugh. Irritating, but if they're supplying no big deal.
Then they complain about plates. I'm sorry , but this is NOT reasonable. They're signing you up for chores you want to avoid. Tell them to either use paper, or put on an apron and get ready to wash it themselves.
Lastly, they bring grumpy relative who doesn't like children to your kids thankbirthday. No. I'm sorry people, but if you think its OK to agree to go to an event, and then change the whole thing, then you're mental. The grandparents knew what they were signing up for! If that didn't sound enjoyable, the polite thing to do would be to suck it up, OR host at their own house. Those are the only acceptable options.

if the ask had been phrased "my daughter invited me over for Thanksgiving. Its her kids birthday and I don't like the food. Is it OK if I insist on other food and make her serve real plates? Also I think I'm going to invite my own guests." You'd all flip.

Kudos to you OP for keeping your cool and rolling with it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:04 AM on November 12, 2012 [15 favorites]

but feelings would be hurt. I don't deal well with that. Options?

You hurt their feelings. Or you suck it up and ruin your kid's birthday. Making everyone happy is not an option.

You need to choose; and I really hope you put your kids before your parents. Tell them your are not doing Thanksgiving this year and they and the people they invited need to find other plans.

fingersandtoes was totally on the mark: "I'd cancel, personally, but mainly because if you don't you're going to continue to be railroaded in the future."
posted by spaltavian at 6:01 AM on November 12, 2012

You aren't selfish.

As a kid who was born on a date that intersects with Chanukah more times than I care to think about, I can tell you that you learn to roll with it after a while.

I think it's AWESOME that you want to make a big day for your son, and to that end, plan some very specific activities around that.

He's already said he wants MeMaw and PaPaw to be there, so ditching them now isn't really practical. As for the other relatives, make a game of trying to count their complaints or their annoying habits or whatever it is that bugs you about them. They may be pains in the ass, but if you goof on them, it can be a family in-joke for the rest of your lives. In fact, give yourself permission to say whatever you want to them. Stress comes from keeping it all in, if you let it out in little bursts of snark, you'll be amazed at how much better you'll feel.

I would have a phone call with your parents and merely say, "Mom and Dad, I specificially left the guest list on T'giving up to Son. He really wanted a small family celebration with you and us. You may or may not know, but I'm telling you now, we don't like the Grumps. They put a pall on every occasion and they're down right rude to the kids. We're going to roll with it, because that's how we do. Just know that you're on MY shit-list and you're on Son's shit-list. Now, as far as plates and food, etc. If you want, you can bring whatever side-dish or dessert you HAVE to have. I've already told you what I'm doing. Let me know what you're bringing and I won't order it from Golden Corral. We're being tacky and eating off of paper plates, with plastic cutlery and you'll just have to get over it."

One thing you can teach your kids is that sometimes life throws you curve balls. People you love can do things that piss you right-the fuck-off and you can choose to handle it graciously or you can make a big-fat-hairy-deal and everyone can be miserable.

Your son only has to share his birthday with T'giving every few six years, this isn't going to be a BFD and he'll totally understand and not feel like he got rooked.

Everyone's parents are maddening, and as I edge up on fifty, I'm so thankful that as grumpy, stubborn and inappropriate as they are, I still have them both.

Your day isn't going to be ruined, not if you don't let it be.

Take care!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:19 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know you've already made up your mind, but as a former-kid with a Thanksgiving birthday, you might like to know for future reference that my mom would have been my hero if she had ever, even once, cancelled Thanksgiving and taken us all out of town to celebrate my birthday. Instead, I had a lifetime of shitty birthdays, forced to put up with unpleasant relatives and eat traditional food I hated (or more often, not eating because I hated it, and just watching everyone else eat). Sure, there was occasionally cake and usually presents, but as an adult now I still kind of hate Thanksgiving and am almost always forced to celebrate it due to everyone else's family obligation-feelings.
posted by booknerd at 7:38 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, this might depend on the age of your son, but kids are little sponges. Knowing that the birthday party they wanted has become a source of conflict between family members might be very upsetting for him.

Also, if this is the first time you have done this, consider that you may have put your parents in a strange place. They want their traditional fancy thanksgiving meal with their family, inclusive of grumpy relatives, that they have been looking forward to. By making plans that you were adamant about sticking to, you ran the risk of your parents declining your invitation so they could have their traditional Thanksgiving. It sounds like they were trying to come up with a compromise, albeit in a rude way, by whining about the lack of traditional thanksgiving stuff.

You can say it is your house and put your foot down, but you also have to be prepared for other people to decline your invitations and proceed with their own plans.
posted by inertia at 8:53 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's pretty clear that none of you see Thanksgiving the way my family does, which I think is causing some of the confusion for me. I would never invite anyone to someone else's house, but if I hosted Thanksgiving, I would also never assume I could pick and choose which relatives could come. The idea of being like, "Well, I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I say Grandma can't come"? That's just ... that's not comprehensible to me, even though it's technically consistent with "I decide who's invited to my house."

I think we're all just talking about massively different things. I share with many others the bafflement over why you're hosting. You have the absolute right to say "it's my kid's birthday, and that's going to be the focus of everything that happens, and if you don't like it, you can lump it." That may very well be a line you badly need to draw. But if you feel that way, you definitely are the wrong host for Thanksgiving.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:10 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

(By "none of you," I mean "neither the OP nor the OP's relatives," by the way.)
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2012

but as a former-kid with a Thanksgiving birthday, you might like to know for future reference that my mom would have been my hero if she had ever, even once, cancelled Thanksgiving and taken us all out of town to celebrate my birthday. Instead, I had a lifetime of shitty birthdays, forced to put up with unpleasant relatives and eat traditional food I hated

Yes! To this day I LOATHE Thanksgiving, when really it should be a pretty good holiday.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:39 AM on November 12, 2012

How about you divvy up the day?

Birthday Eve (Nov 21st): Kid's Birthday Bash Opening Ceremonies. Clean house, put up decorations for kid's birthday wrap gifts, prepare cake.

8am to 5pm: Official Birthday Bash hours. Gifts! Games! Cake! Fun! Pause at appropriate time to shove turkey in oven for a few hours, go back to Birthday Bash festivities.

5pm: Birthday Bash Closing Ceremonies. Shoo away guests, rip down the decorations, put away remaining cake, stow gifts. Then switch over to Thanksgiving: set the table and start heating up the food.

6pm - 6:30pm: Mom, Dad, and the Grumpies arrive. Hand them drinks the moment they walk in the door; alcohol may temper their moods. Take Mom's food to kitchen for re-heat and prep along with the food you bought.

6:45pm: Announce to guests that, due to exhausting Birthday Bash celebration from earlier in the day, Thanksgiving Supper will be served promptly at 7pm, and end promptly at 9pm so the kids can hit the hay. Pass out more drinks; it's important to keep them liquored up so they'll be pliable.

7pm: Thanksgiving Supper Opening Ceremonies. During blessing of the food, ask whatever God you worship to make it quick and painless.

8:30pm: Take kids aside and quietly remind the kids to start yawning ferociously the instant the clock strikes 9pm.

9pm: Thanksgiving Supper Closing Ceremonies. Thank everyone for coming, pass out leftovers to the appropriate parties. Bonus points if you give everyone a parting gift of wine to soften the blow a bit. Escort everyone politely but firmly to the door, as kids are clearly exhausted and wanting their beds (surreptiously kick kids to remind them to KEEP YAWNING).

9:01pm: As cars pull out of driveway, commence Birthday Bash Part II - The Party Don't Stop. This can be anything from playing Dance Dance Revolution on your Playstation with your kids to taking them out for a late movie.

A lot more work than you want, maybe, but it could be fun if you treat it as an chapter in the Mission Impossible franchise.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:43 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know your family dynamic much better than we ever could, I'd frame the question as one about what you'd like to teach your kid by example about the value that family traditions have as opposed to their birthday. This would not be a difficult choice for me and I think you are right to be hopping mad.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:04 AM on November 16, 2012

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