Rat-ical Change

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

holidays estranged from adult childrenChange is good when old and lovely traditions make empty chairs conspicuous (as they often are during holidays estranged from adult children). We’ve created new adventure to nearly every holiday the last few years, and it’s been great fun to try new things.

This year, for the first Thanksgiving ever, I decided to leave the cooking to a restaurant. Everyone agreed, and I made reservations for a buffet serving seafood and breakfast as well as traditional holiday fare. We were excited. That is until I shared my plans with a relative two days before Thanksgiving.

“No, you don’t want to go there,” he said. “They’ve had complaints about food poisoning. My buddy works at that place, and he says he would never eat there.” He went on to relate his friend’s descriptions of the kitchen that left me anything but eager to eat there.

I cancelled our reservation and began the arduous task of finding another restaurant on such short notice. Very few places had any seats left, and when they did, it was for the late evening, which wouldn’t work for us. Finally, I found a buffet that sounded promising practically in my own backyard. Why hadn’t I thought of them before?

We all arrived at the restaurant and filled our plates and bellies with delicious foods. We were sleepily contemplating dessert when some movement caught our eyes. A rat! It scurried from the kitchen to the booths across from our table, followed by a chef and his staff who all swiped at it with brooms. Eventually, the rat darted beneath the skirt of the buffet table where they cornered it.

Our party of six didn’t get dessert. Instead, we decided loudly not to rat out the restaurant to the authorities. Then we ordered marga-rat-as and sat making jokes while we drank. Why let a rodent rat-tle us?

Thanksgiving has passed, but we’re already making changes to our Christmas and New Year’s plans. It’s fun to try new things, and experience new adventures.

Holidays estranged from adult children: ideas to help

In the support forum and in website comments, people have been talking about some of their plans—not just for the holidays, but in the days leading up to them as well. Here are a few ideas:

  • Visit inpatients at a local hospital who can’t go home for holidays.
  • Listen/watch online church broadcasts.
  • Sew curtains, a tablecloth, or do some other project that keeps you busy now—and rewards you all year.
  • Go to the movies (there are new ones out this time of year).
  • Honor a loved one who has passed away by making their special dish or dessert. Or set up a memorial with candles—consider adding a candle for your estranged adult child if that feels right.
  • Play board games and invite a friend you know is alone to play.
  • Serve yourself champagne, and consider all you’re thankful for.
  • Focus on the spiritual meaning of the holidays.

Or try on a new, lighthearted perspective? Like: Imagine you’re from another planet and arrive during the holidays. What’s funny that you see?

What’s new that you might do to change up the holidays and make them fun? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments to this post. I bet you have some rat-ical ideas.

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14 thoughts on “Rat-ical Change

  1. Kama

    This year, I’m focusing on what makes ME happy. While that might seems selfish, I spent years doing for my ED and my ex, often ignoring what I wanted, often to my own detriment. So I decorated to my heart’s content, put up a big tree just for me, bought myself a few presents, and allowing(within reason) some of the treats I want. I’m baking a little for work and church. And relaxing. I have picked out a candle ceremony I’m going to do in honor of my deceased parents, and I’m going to include my ED as well. This is how I’m coping this year.

  2. Annie

    Good for you Kama. It’s hard for us as Mothers to not be selfless. I think most of us have sacrificed a lot in raising our children. And to not feel they’ve appreciated or respected us is really so disappointing and pitiful. So kudos to you to celebrate you and honor your parents and help out at church. These are all good things. It’s called being a survivor and not a victim. You go Kama!
    Merry Christmas Annie

  3. Katherine

    Avoid that place at all costs! If it’s on the floor and running around you can count on something special in the sauce.

  4. Tess B

    Since my only children, twin boys, 24 this month have become estranged from me, I thought I was always alone. I am happy to have found this site. One son is getting married this month also. They both ignored me at their college graduations, I left in tears, I was invited to the wedding, but it felt like a courtesy. I do not know the girl he is marrying, and I’ve not been included in any part of the planning. My name is not even on the invitations. I’m so sad. Today has been one of the worst. I don’t know how this has all come to be. I was the involved parent, at all events. I was a good mom. They even used the line I read here, “you were a great mom to us as kids, but I don’t know what’s wrong with you now”. Well, what’s wrong with me is that EVERYTHING I lived for, the very reason I existed, has abandoned me. I don’t know how I’m going to do this month. Their birthday is the 16th, wedding the 17th and Christmas was OUR favorite holiday with many traditions. I just wish I knew why 🙁

    1. Shoshanah

      My heart goes out to you. My relationship with my two daughters ended a year ago when my youngest told me she was pregnant, due at the end of July, and that her father and his “bimbo” for whom he left us, were going to be present at the birth. I could go later on, like in October, to visit. A series of horribly cruel emails from her older sister ensued. I don’t even know if she had a boy or a girl. I then realized that both my daughters had been lying to me and having a relationship with the father and his mistress/now wife behind my back. They had lied about if for years. I’m devastated to realize that the daughters I sacrificed my life for sold themselves for their father’s money, obtained through all kinds of illegal/criminal ventures. I cry a lot when I’m alone in my car and I pray. Otherwise, I keep busy learning a new language and involved with Project Linus, knitting and crocheting blankets for needy children. And like you, I don’t know why.

    2. JUDE

      Hi Tess,
      Blessings to you and getting past these major events coming up. 10 yrs I’ve been chanting your exact words…..I wish I knew why. Try to be grateful for the things that some of us never have since being abandoned. My only child, 33, a son who I was proud of for 21 years and he used to introduce me to his friends,” hey guys meet my best friend and Mom.”. Never saw him graduate law school, wasn’t sure where he was until one day browsing his name on Facebook…he finally appeared. That’s how I learned he was married, huge wedding, been elected district attorney right out of law school, AND I AM GRANDMA, to a precious little girl who ironically looks exactly like me and 1-2 years old. I copied pics and put only one on my Facebook. A couple days later i received an email accusing me of copyright infringement, removed her pic and warned me that those photos all belonged to “IKE” & if it happens again he was going to press charges. Now I can’t access his Facebook or his wife’s, no pics of my lil angel for over a year,, plus I heard my 2nd granddaughter was born last December. I’m dying inside and desperately trying to understand my purpose in life now. I have no siblings, parents passed on. I not one family person in my life for 10 years. I too was a good Mom attending his concerts, football games, every week his longtime girlfriend had dinner with us and she loved me back.
      I wish I had any contact or invites to his life. But as the years keep passing by, I have little faith of ever seeing the day he wakes up and remembers his Mom and how much he misses me. Til then, I have this website with a huge group of Moms & Dad’s who exactly what I’m living everyday without exception! My prayers are with you too.

  5. todie

    Oh Tess B. My heart hurts for you. I have two daughters and a son who don’t bother with me. Today I feeling more possitive about things. I was left out of some of my grandchildren births. This past July my son in law went in for a routine scope and his lungs were burned tragically and hospital said family needed to come. When I planned to get to my daughter she said NOTHING. She didn’t want me. A real awakening. Later I’ll share more but I wanted to tell you it gets better when I remember how much I love them but I need to finally love me more. I’m worth that.

  6. Annie

    Yes, Todie and Tess it can get better. Bless your hearts for all you’ve endured.
    I think some days it feels like it will never get better. These holidays are so rough with so many memories of what once was with our children. They are adults now and we have no control over their behavior or their perception of us. I know it’s easier said than done when they have treated us so badly. Often times I reflect on my intentions as a mom struggling to raise my girls the best I knew how as a single parent and I do know in my heart I did it out of love and tried the best I could. If you can try to see that often times when their lives don’t go according to plan and they have disappointments; they want us to hurt and use us as scapegoats. Nothing justifies their mistreatment of us, the one person that should be the closest to them, but I think we’re the ones who take the brunt of their failures. It’s shameful and pitiful and I sometimes don’t know if they will ever realize the pain they’ve caused but we can take our power back and not let their perception of us determine our self worth.
    I’m sure both of you women are wonderful human beings. I pray things get better for all of us. We will get through this and maybe even be better because of it all. Merry Christmas and hugs to you both. Annie

    1. Michelle

      I understand your pain and hurt. I have thought the same at times but I have a daughter that is in my life. It was a struggle to go through the motions but I had to. I hope one day, you’ll be able to celebrate it again. Don’t let your child still your joy. You have to live!

  7. Dosha R.

    We moved to our cabin during the summer so I decided to trim the tree completely different than any other year. It makes me happy. I spent time making crafts and enjoy me…. Merry Christmas to all of you!! We can get through this…

  8. Bev

    I can relate to all of your stories. I was a single mom, now single gramma – estranged for a couple of years from my daughter & grandkids. The holidays are torturous. I live in a new city, have few friends & it’s extra tough being alone too. ‘THEY’ live 15 minutes away & are the only reason I moved to a new state – where they live. It’s not possible to go back. Therapy is helpful while we’re in session, but I still wake up in tears & sadness every, single morning. I do alot of volunteer work, talk to my long time friends on the phone & try really hard to be active & enjoy life. Some days are better than others… The bright side is my SON!! He is kind, loving, supportive & a HUGE blessing. Ironically he lives far away, but I do see him once or twice a year & we talk every week on the phone. He has no idea what or why either. SO many lives affected by ONE person. I’d be happy to never see her again, but dearly love & miss my grandkids – forever.

  9. Michelle

    I read your book about 4 months ago. It has changed my life! I wish I had known about this book before now. I’m hesitant to say this because of the prior replies, but my son ( who has been estranged from our family) is actually talking to me. Well, “texting” mostly, but at this point I’ll take anything I can get. We text almost everyday, sometimes 3 and 4 times. It could be something serious or just something funny we want to share. The change came when I decided I’d had enough and I let him know, whether he loved me or not, wanted me in his life or not, or cared anything about me or our family, that I was choosing to be “happy”. No longer was I going to be sad about our situation. He lives with his ex, (yes, I said ex)don’t understand this at all especially after 3 affairs she’s had. She is toxic to him and their child, my grandson. I pray that one day she will leave for good because he’s so different when he’s not around her. I know that if she knew we talked, she would do everything in her power to sabotage our relationship. I love my son and I know he loves me. This person has a hold on him but one day hopefully soon, he’ll get tired of her drama and control. Thank you Sheri for writing this book. I feel for ALL the mothers and fathers who have an estranged child. It hurts so much. I pray for all of you that one day your child or children will come back to you.


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