‘I am too old for this!’ Time to pass the baton (or drumstick metaphorically) and change traditions
Ready to step away? Defer to the younger generation? Did you hear yourself saying this too many times while hosting and preparing Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or for upcoming Christmas or a New Year’s feast, “I’m too old for this?” If you said it more than once, you probably really meant it and are. You listened to your mumblings and paid attention to your physical aches and pains. We heartily suggest a twist on an old aphorism: “If it’s broke, fix it!”
Can you relate?
Let’s get real. It’s harder to bend and get down on the floor whether to play with grandkids, put away pots and pans in lower cabinets, load a dishwasher, take a turkey out of a conventional oven to baste it or take out foods from a freezer at the bottom of a refrigerator.
It’s also harder to reach up or stand on a stepstool as we’ve lost inches. As excited as we may be to spend holidays with family and close friends, it’s become increasingly less exciting to pull off a great meal with multiple trips to the grocery store, preparation of so many courses, then wrapping up leftovers to consume or packing them up for guests to take home. We’ve done all these tasks for years; well, to be honest, for decades after we took over from our parents or other relatives.
Today, we have nothing to prove. We can cook a turkey or rib roast well and even know how it should be carved, thanks to YouTube and cooking channels. We can prep multiple pies especially since we’ve found good store-bought pie crust. We like ours best but give us a slice of pecan pie, apple or pumpkin from a good bakery, and we’re content. We are still territorial about some recipes including our stuffing and popovers. But the rest? Who cares! You do, carry on!
Have we turned into scrooges? No, but we admit, we are ready to pass the baton (or drumstick metaphorically) and say sweetly to our kids or friends who have been coming to our home for years, it’s your turn. Or we say let’s share more of the work, have it catered, or all go out! And then might we go Dutch and share expenses, too? Doing most of it ourselves from scratch, unless we love to do it, is no longer fun and is very expensive. (One of us caught herself studying several posted menus online. What a deal; $21.95 bought a salad, turkey dinner and a slice of pie!)
We’re not giving up all entertainment, just multiple versions of the major celebrations with several courses and lots of people. We’d like to focus on small almost impromptu gatherings with some good wine or nonalcoholic drinks, hearty appetizers, maybe a charcuterie board and a dessert or two (read last week’s blog post for more advice.) We can make a few things and buy the rest or ask others to contribute their efforts, even a bottle of wine. It was hard, the first go-around suggesting a pot-luck style gathering, but we’re flexible, adaptable and knew what was most important: being with others, feeling relaxed and having a good time! We want to spend time talking and laughing with everyone, old and young; that’s the real importance of being together, not in the kitchen.
We’re not bowing out completely. We’ll be glad to help, make some dishes, clear plates, rinse dishes and unload the dishwasher multiple times or whatever anyone wants us to do.
We know from our own experiences that it’s tough for the younger generations to view parents through a clear lens. Many of us may look wonderful for our ages and seem to have boundless energy, but it can be deceiving. It's tough to accept that we’re older and not as good at doing so many physically or even mentally demanding tasks. We may be loath to say anything to the younger generation since it may come off like we’re complaining. So, we steel ourselves each year and once again take on the holidays or a big event.
In many cases, we have a larger home or apartment to make entertaining easier but, more and more, we’re downsizing so we don’t have as much space. Often our kids have room if they’ve been lucky to move into larger apartments and homes.
In the spirit of joy and goodwill, here are our recommendations to slide into a gentle switch-a-roo of perhaps one holiday or event annually and ease into the new sharing roles.
Five easy ways to start:
- Be transparent. Ask for some talk time in person, online or on the phone to talk about YOU. Yes, time to focus on us. Some offspring may already be in the loop of knowing how you are physically or mentally, but many aren’t. Explain any infirmities or health concerns and be honest rather than a martyr. Ban those white lies (Read Jeanette Cooperman, https://commonreader.wustl.edu/white-lies-seem-civilized-but-they-drive-us-apart/). Say, if this is the case, that it’s hard for you to lug multiple bags of groceries home and unpack them or stand on your feet for many hours over a course of a few days and cook, cook, cook and clean. And it’s harder for you to read labels on contents unless you’ve brought along your magnifying glass to the grocery store.
- See if an offer of hosting is forthcoming from the younger generation. If not, it may be time to bring up the idea of sharing more of the cooking and cleanup. One family does so with a spreadsheet. Sound too business-y? Maybe, but then develop other solutions. And again, don’t take on all the heavy lifting. Like any good manager, delegate. Practice saying “no” or “How about another task?” Don’t get defensive or argue.
- At an impasse? Other ideas are to bring in from a local grocery store since many have kitchens on site (try some items now for the future), from a takeout store or a club or use a caterer. We drooled this year when we saw all the good takeout from Poppy’s, with take-out and eat-in shops in Brooklyn.Using this kind of source requires ordering in advance since many places run out; in other words, plan ahead! Consider also hiring someone to clean up afterward. Yes, it’s everyone’s holiday but some are eager for the extra work and cash.
- Consider, all going away. Many resorts offer Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Passover celebrations and meals, or you can go to the hotels, and then dine out locally after researching online. A holiday on a cruise ship or at a lovely resort in a warm climate sounds divine now as the temperatures begin to dip or wait until next summer. Is it wrong to break with tradition? Welcome to older age, and you’ll be toasting the idea!
- Try a different plan, one holiday or for one big event at a time. One break doesn’t mean it has to be etched in stone. Make it an adventure, a new chapter, a trial run. Afterward, ask everyone for feedback. This country is still a democracy so it’s important to give everyone an equal vote. If the conclusion is, Mom, Dad, yours is the best, make it conditional on a fairer division of labor. At least, you’ve considered alternatives that may work for any holiday or milestone. Remember, change is good and with life cycles it’s inevitable. Merry Christmas to all and to all a sweet good night.