A Tale of Two Turkeys: Surviving Thanksgiving with Divorced Parents

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Piles of turkey, mounds of mash potatoes, heaps of stuffing, puddles of gravy… sounds like Thanksgiving to me.

However, with what is undoubtedly the Meal of the Year comes a heavy focus on family. The romantic notion of family and thankfulness is nice for movies and cards, but with divorced parents Thanksgiving becomes a completely different holiday, unrecognizable from the one of your pre-divorce past.

While it might seem like having two Thanksgivings would just double the appreciation and love (and pie), the reality is less ideal.

The holidays are quite possibly sh*ttiest time for children of divorce. They serve as a lovely reminder of the fact that your family is no longer a cohesive unit. All the traditions you once had as a child become fragmented. Roles change. There’s no more “dad carves the turkey and mom makes the stuffing.” Instead you’re left with lackluster stuffing at one house and a botched turkey at another.

Not exactly picture-perfect.

Also, the menu begins to include things that your parents feel compelled to make now that they are “free” and “independent.”

It becomes absolute anarchy. Everyone makes whatever they please. Why do we all of the sudden have green bean casserole? Well, mom never liked it that much so dad never made it, but now he doesn’t have to worry about that so the smell of mushroom soup permeates the kitchen for days leading up to the big day.

Beyond the new contents of your plate, time is now split between two households. Thanksgiving break is only five days, and dividing such a short amount of time up is stressful and guaranteed to leave at least one parent feeling shorted. It is absolutely impossible to please everyone.

Another fun twist is the revolving door of strangers that have taken a seat at the Thanksgiving table over the years. From significant others to stepparents and their children, the invite list becomes increasingly less connected to you. Finally, after about three years I started to like my step mom–but once things smooth over with one parent the other just can’t wait to shake things up with a new friend. I don’t think you know weird until you watch your parents date.

Not to mention the amount of food, which is actually outrageous. Two Thanksgiving dinners? Sounds like a dream, right? Wrong. The tryptophan coma becomes medically concerning. The amount of rolls–both eaten and appearing on your stomach–doubles. Not to mention, double the leftovers. Don’t try to tell me you ever finish the leftovers from just one feast. With two, there’s no escaping the Thanksgiving food—it’s everywhere. Turkey sandwiches for days.

If you’re lucky, one of your parents might go out of town, leaving you with the standard single meal–but most of the time they “miss you” and so both will stay. This all sounds endearing–and I guess it’s nice that they both want to feed you delicious food–but instead of feeling suffocated by love, you’re suffocated by pumpkin pie. This isn’t as fun as you might think.

While there’s no doubt that Thanksgiving is still a grand time with lots of food and lots of love, it’s extremely difficult to cope with a broken home during these typically family-oriented holidays. While some people would say having two Turkey Days is a blessing and something to be thankful for, I think that we lose far more in a divorce than can ever be compensated with sweet potato casserole.

It’s much more difficult to enjoy being home for Thanksgiving when your parents aren’t together, and no amount of pecan pie can fix that.

Sophomore at my home under the Dome, AKA the University of Notre Dame. Love running, water skiing, writing and watching Christmas movies all year long. Dream date is Seth Cohen circa 2004.

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