Who Gets Custody Of The Turkey?
My friend Mia is going through a divorce. This will be her first Thanksgiving as a single mother. She asked for my advice. This is my thirteenth! Well, Mia, how you handle the holiday depends on your Conflict Resolution Style according to the Thomas/Killman Scale: Accommodation, Compromise, Competition, Avoidance, or Collaboration. www.kilmanndiagnostics.com/catalog/Thomas-kilmann-conflict-mode They all work- and don't. Take your pick!
Accommodation: "We're One Big Happy Family Even Though We're Not "
My first year, my ex-husband came to my friend Ronnie's house as usual with me and my two kids. Rookie mistake. If anything, our divorce is a little too amicable. But our determination to act as if it was no big deal only made it a bigger deal. Awkward silences, non-sequiturs. No wonder I ended up face down in the stuffing.
The reality is that although it may seem to cushion the blow in fact divorced family outings are like time-lapse re-enactments of the split. The kids wish you were still together. They make believe. And then they have to go with one or the other parent at the end of the evening and feel the subtraction all over again. Not to mention the loss of control. It's bad on any occasion, but even worse on a holiday.
Then whichever parent they end up with is treated to all kinds of acting out, acting in, regression, recrimination and plain old bad mood.
Of course, that didn't stop me from doing it a couple more times. I warned Mia to schedule three years worth of psychotherapy appointments in advance if she goes this route. Per person.
Compromise: "Birds of a Feather Flock To A Tiny Apartment In Malibu"
At a Thanksgiving celebrated with other single parents and kids at the home of a friend of a friend, some guy named Andrew brought along his divorce lawyer Mark who was himself getting divorced. He sported a backwards baseball cap perched at a jaunty angle on his thinning hair. Mark regaled us with stories of "Divorce Dementia" like his client's ex-wife Christine who broke into his client's house seven times in ten days (!) and rearranged the furniture. (He's a successful interior designer. Guess that was her idea of an ironic comment.) Christine denied in court she was the culprit until confronted with surveillance footage from a closed circuit TV camera. It turned out she was sitting across the table from Mark.
Note to Mia: It's a small world. Run background checks.
Competition: "It's Better This Way - And, No That's Not An Elephant In The Room!"
Then there was the Thanksgiving I was seeing someone whose cousin is a perfectionist to begin with, only she went haywire when she filed for divorce. She took her kids to see the Macy's Parade balloons get blown up, and hosted her extended family. She made her own decorations and thoughtfully included the recipe for "Marshmallow Pilgrim Hat Treats" in a favor bag. http://http//www.parents.com/videos/v/63985108/marshmallow-pilgrim-hat-treats.htmBy then, I wanted to divorce her. I cautioned Mia not to try too hard.
Avoidance: "Thanksgiving Denial – It's Just Another Day"
Once when the kids were away with their father for Thanksgiving I tagged along with my separated friend Rosie and her bachelorette sister Allison. Our first stop was a nail salon. I couldn't believe it was open. Allison couldn't believe I couldn't believe it. "Do you think they have Thanksgiving in Vietnam?" she snorted. The place was packed. Our next stop was an Indian restaurant, followed by a late movie. I felt funny. Like I was getting away with something. Like something was getting away from me. But I gave Mia the name of the nail salon, just in case.
I guess that leaves Collaboration, whatever that is. I'm shooting for that this year.
As for Mia, what did she decide to do for her first single mother Thanksgiving? Accommodation. She's going to her cousin's house in the valley with her kids – and her ex-husband. Which means there are going to be some very thankful psychotherapists in her area code next week.