My three children, their spouses, and seven grandchildren were here for Thanksgiving so of course I enjoyed the holiday. I had special moments and memories with each over the weekend.
Why the children were here rather than somewhere else goes back to the late seventies when their mother and I were going through separation and divorce. We initially had the then typical visitation schedule that alternated holidays with Christmas starting December 24 on even-numbered years and December 26 on odd-numbered years.
I did not like having only half of the Thanksgiving holidays and my ex preferred Christmas Eve and Christmas morning every year. She made the sensible suggestion, “If you will let me have Christmas Eve and Christmas morning every year, I will let you have Thanksgiving every year.” I accepted. Thanksgiving became the prime McDow family holiday with our extended family gathering every year.
The children are now 44, 42, and 39. None has been under a visitation order in the past twenty-one years, yet our Thanksgiving tradition continues. Their annual Thanksgiving trip to Rock Hill trumps their mother, in-laws, other family, the newest movies, and Black Friday. When they were in college, they brought dates, roommates, college friends, and sometimes the families of dates and college friends. They still do. This year my daughter-in-law brought her sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew. Last year one son brought his former college roommate, his wife, and children. They will spend Christmas with their mother and in-laws.
It is my personal and professional opinion that lawyers, judges, guardians, mediators, and parents err in applying standard visitation schedules that include alternating holidays. Making holidays constant provides stability and predictability while allowing families to develop traditions that long survive the visitation order.
My children frequently accuse me of reaching conclusions with insufficient data points, but I think their mother and I got this one right. Over the years I persuaded many clients, opposing parties, and opposing lawyers to adopt constant holiday schedules. No one complained and several have thanked me.
I encourage discussion on this topic in hopes that we can all do better than the ill-considered standard visitation schedules so many lawyers adopt automatically.
What is your experience?
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!
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