From the Mailbag: “You Can Decide How to React to What You Have”

Hi, Wendy, I notice that you get a lot of questions about the holidays, usually along the lines of my kids/in-laws/parents are RUINING Thanksgiving! Last November none of our kids could get home for T-giving. I was wrecked. It really, really hurt. We have four kids — three had to work and one had a new baby. I mean, I understood, but it hurt.

I decided that for once, I was going to do exactly what I wanted: go out to an expensive restaurant and have a big meal that I didn’t have to cook for/clean up after. I also gave myself permission to NOT feel guilty spending a lot of money when, you know, I could stay home and cook a nice meal for the two of us.

We dressed up and went out. It was FABULOUS! I may never slave over a hot stove again on T-giving. (And the Cowboys won! God LOVES us!)

You can decide how to react to what you have.

Love your advice – Mom of Four

Thank you for your note. I admit, when I read it, I wondered why you were writing about Thanksgiving now, in May. But then I realized you had an important message that was a good reminder for people, no matter what time of year: you can decide how you react to what you have. We can’t control everything that happens to us. We can’t control other people’s behavior or decisions. But we CAN control how we react to those decisions, especially when the decisions affect us and our lives. You may even find that in embracing a Plan B — a plan you likely wouldn’t have considered had it not been for other people’s decisions affecting you — you enjoy yourself as much or even more than you may have enjoyed Plan A.

This is also a good reminder, especially for those of us who struggle with guilt, that other people are in charge of their own well-being. If we make decisions that affect people’s plans, they can decide whether to react to those decisions in a positive way or a negative way. Their happiness is not dependent on our behavior – or, at least, it shouldn’t be, and it’s not out fault if it is. We are not responsible for someone else’s happiness.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)


  1. I think this is a great reminder. I think we all can feel slighted from time to time and this is a great way to show it is all how you see a situation.

  2. Small quibble with the word choice but I think of “react” as how we FEEL and “respond” as how we ACT. This is coming from someone who has had trouble letting myself feel certain ways (especially angry or sad). It’s ok to feel badly sometimes; what we have control over is what we do about it.

  3. dinoceros says:

    It’s also a good reminder not to make holidays gauges of how your loved ones feel about you. That’s way too much pressure to put on a day and on people, especially when holidays are usually pretty stressful for a lot of people. It sounds like you understand that they weren’t choosing not to spend it with you because of how they feel about you, but because of logistics. I have to try to split my time at the holidays (I travel from out of state) between both parents, extended family, and long-time friends, and I know that at least a few of them try to determine how much I love them based on how much time I spend with them (or what days I spend with them). I could not care less about Christmas, so all my decisions are essentially related to logistics and affordability and trying to figure out who won’t be mad at me.

  4. Bittergaymark says:

    It’s also a good reminder that some people truly lead charmed lived yet create petty vapid problems…


  5. ron Skinner says:

    It is fine for LW to be sad that family wasn’t able to join her for Thanksgiving dinner, but absolutely no reason to feel slighted by or disappointed in her children. A couple who just had a child shouldn’t be expected to travel home for TG. Young adults or persons in new jobs don’t get a lot of vacation time early on in a job and if their employer is open on holidays, they don’t have seniority to claim TG as an off day.
    Even beyond that, when your children leave the nest, marry, and start their own nuclear families, they are going to have a desire to establish their own nuclear family traditions, as well as in-laws clamoring for them to spend holidays with them, and not a ton of free time and perhaps just needing to relax at home to recharge from hectic life.

    When we were a young couple, holidays could be extremely stressful with both sets of parents, plus grandparents wanting (expecting) us to spend time at their house. We coped, because most of these people were local. A lot tougher for sibs at a distance.

    Parents want to cling to their nuclear family and almost assume it will remain the focus of their adult childrens’ interest. It really doesn’t have to. Two of my 3 sibs accommodate their kids and generally go to their homes for holidays.

    1. *slow claps Ron’s reply*

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