7 Challenges Grandmas Face at Thanksgiving

Our blogger explores the challenges—and the joys—of this beloved family holiday.

By Lisa Carpenter

Life becomes easier once we become grandmothers. With fewer obligations to meet, there’s more fun to be had. Except, that is, when it comes to the holidays, and none more so than Thanksgiving.

To wit:

1. We have to share. We were taught in kindergarten the importance of sharing. As kindergartners, though, we didn’t consider sharing our children and grandchildren with our children’s in-laws. It’s hard to accept with a happy heart those years our adult kids and grandkids celebrate Thanksgiving with the other grandparents.

2. We have to share, part 2. Sometimes sharing means the kids host holiday happenings at their place, so both sets of grandparents can celebrate with them. Which is ideal for the most part. Unless those kids live far away, meaning Grandma must travel at Thanksgiving—the worst travel time—as well as be away from her other adult kids who can’t make the trip.

3. Sibling revelry no more. As we age, our siblings age. We all have families of our own, face exactly the same challenges. Thanksgiving dinners with brothers and sisters become rarities as they, too, struggle to schedule breaking bread and turkey wishbones with their own children and grandchildren.

4. Sometimes we get our way. Every once in a while, the cards and holiday plans fall our way and the entire family—kids, grandkids, siblings, in-laws, and more—accept our invitation to a grand Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Grandma. My warning: Be careful what you wish for. More tables, more place settings, more turkeys (and more ovens in which to cook them) prove quite the challenge. 

5. Hosting our own parents. Being a grandmother means our parents, if we’re fortunate and they’re still around, are great-grandparents. They may be less than able, requiring special diets, accommodations, and considerations in order to safely and comfortably participate in family gatherings.

6. Empty places. On the other hand, as we get older and lose loved ones, some places typically filled at our holiday table may no longer be filled, may remain empty forevermore. A far different kind of challenge.

7. Turkey trots. Thanksgiving-morning runs have become the norm for many young families. Exercise is good for the soul, no doubt, but am I the only grandma more concerned with the daylong Thanksgiving meal preparations than running a 5k before even getting the turkey in the oven? Besides, whatever happened to the family gathering to watch televised Thanksgiving Day parades as Mom and Grandma cooked in the kitchen, requesting only to be called out when The Rockettes made their appearance?

The bright side for grandmothers? Inside each challenge lies abundant blessings, despite the stress: Our children and grandchildren have beloved in-laws; we’re able to travel, to host, to still hold close our siblings and parents. And, yes, even turkey trots are a blessing, especially for those active grandmas who actually run them. 

We grandmas may face more holiday challenges, yet we also have more blessings to appreciate—at Thanksgiving as well as year round.

Lisa Carpenter is a mother, grandmother and writer of the blog Grandma's Briefs. You can read more of her musings at Grandmasbriefs.com


I am not a grandparent yet but I know one day I'll be one, I have this connection with old people and also very young kids and that's why I found this site very interesting, i want to know what they go through so that when time comes I will be able to take it. Thanks so much for the way you share the challenges. but one thing I know I cherish Grand parents and I find in them no wrong!

elmusungu on 2013-02-15 06:54:21

It certainly can be confusing, GrandmaGreatKelly. But muddling through with open minds and open hearts is the key, I suppose. Sometimes easier said than done. Thank you for your comment.

GrandmasBriefs on 2012-11-21 21:16:13

No wonder we great-grandparents feel so confused and wonder where our place is on holidays; I didn't know there were so many possible situations to be considered.
Good, thought-provoking blog, Lisa.

GrandmaGreatKelly on 2012-11-21 09:51:09

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