My College:
Family Life

Your Child's Significant Other and the Holiday Photo Card Dilemma

Marlene Kern Fischer

We mailed out our family’s holiday card this week — no, we weren’t late. Our tradition is to send a card for Groundhog Day. We started this a number of years ago because it took the pressure off getting it done when we are super busy in December plus people seem to appreciate receiving a different kind of holiday card.

In any event, this year both my oldest son’s fiancée as well as my middle son’s girlfriend are on the card. This is the third year the fiancée has been on it. The first time we considered including her they were not yet engaged, or even thinking about getting engaged. But they had been together for a while, so it didn’t seem totally out of line.

I didn’t know how to broach the subject with her. It was kind of like asking someone on a date. What if she said “no"? What if she didn’t like us well enough to be part of our family tradition? Could I handle the rejection? What if she thought we were insane for sending a card which celebrated a rodent and a movie (we just love “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray). What if her parents didn’t like the idea? Would she be insulted if we didn’t include her? Stressful, right?

We discussed it as a family and then I nervously approached her. As I recall, she agreed but seemed a little equivocal to me. When I asked her about it recently, she said that she remembered feeling that it seemed like a big step but that she was “honored.” I do remember she helped us design the card that year.

Friends took notice of the additional person on our card and it didn’t take long for them to start asking questions. Like ten seconds after they received it. I told them that there was nothing to report but that they would all be the first to know when/if there was official news. Two years after that card went out, my son and his girlfriend did indeed get engaged.

This year we faced a similar dilemma with my middle son’s girlfriend. They are young but have been together for over three years and things seem pretty serious. Or serious enough.

Having been down this road before, I found it less scary. As with most things, the oldest paved the way.

I asked my middle son what he thought and he seemed pretty pleased that we felt his girlfriend was Groundhog Day card worthy. So, I texted her and she immediately said “yes.” I asked them for a recent photo they liked, we uploaded it onto the card, and just like that she was in. I guess we didn’t have to include her. But I wanted her to know how we felt about her. The Groundhog Day card is sort of our way of giving our kids our blessing.

I’ve already gotten a few comments and inquiries about their relationship status. Once again, I tell people that I will keep them apprised of the situation.

Since our initial girlfriend-included card went out three years ago, I have looked carefully at other people’s cards to see what they do in terms of significant others. Some seem to wait until there’s a ring on a finger to put him/her on the card. Some wait until marriage. There was one card that only had the original kids on the front — a new spouse was relegated to the back of the card. It didn’t seem like an indictment on the spouse’s character, there was even a wedding picture. I guess they just wanted to keep things as they’ve always been.

There doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong way to do these things. There’s no holiday card book of etiquette — or if there is, I couldn’t find it when I googled it (yes, I actually did). I guess if the worst happens and the couple breaks up, they won’t be on the following year’s card. It’s not the biggest tragedy. Life is all a moment in time.

Groundhog Day is about a day that is repeated over and over.
Life is a lot more fluid than that, and I am glad that our card reflects the changes in our family from year to year.

Marlene Kern Fischer's 2020 Groundhog Day Card


Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother, food shopper extraordinaire, author and college essay editor. She has published two books: Trapped in My Sports Bra and Other Harrowing Tales and Gained a Daughter but Nearly Lost My Mind: How I Planned a Backyard Wedding During a Pandemic. Find her on Facebook at Thoughts From Aisle 4.
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