That comment was once delivered to me across a crowed lobby during a negotiation for the upcoming holiday.  My client had proposed that the other parent have custody Thanksgiving morning until the afternoon. It was an attempt at compromise over a last minute demand by the other side to allow one of the parties two children to spend the holiday with the non-custodial parent. For a multitude of issues which need not be referenced here the other parent has limited custody of one child, no custody of another, and there is no existing holiday schedule.

In this instance, my client’s extended family was hosting a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and  wanted the opportunity to have the children see cousins and extended family. The other party did not have similar plans for the holiday and, as it was relayed to me, their demand was based on the lack of a holiday schedule and a perceived inadequate custodial time. I asked what the parent’s plans were for the day and was told that it was irrelevant: if that parent wanted to make TV dinners and play Xbox with the child for Thanksgiving, they should be permitted to do so.

Admittedly, I generally agree with that concept.  What is really being said is that parents can and should use their custodial holidays to create new and fun traditions with the children.   Which is why I could not understand the resistance to “Thanksgiving breakfast” in this situation. Unfortunately, I knew it was not about “new traditions,” but merely a way for the non-custodial parent to indirectly impose their presence over my client’s family gathering.

That is a short-sighed and self-defeating attitude because while holiday schedules can be difficult to determine and difficult to adjust to, they create the possibility of helping to normalize a custodial schedule to a child and, in this case, an extra chance for the non-custodial parent to spend time with the child. If parties can be creative and flexible in their approach, often solutions to a holiday schedule exist in their existing traditions (i.e. celebrating on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day) or through the elimination of old traditions (i.e. traveling to both sets of grandparents over a holiday).  New traditions may also make the holidays a little easier on a child struggling with the reality that the “old” traditions they enjoyed while their parents were together aren’t available anymore.  Everyone’s lives have changed, but there are still opportunities for creating positive memories through creative solutions if the parties are open to it.

Even if it means serving Thanksgiving breakfast.