"Thanksgiving involves an act of the will. It's not a question of pretending that everything is bright and beautiful when you know it's not. To give thanks is to stand up in the face of the storm and declare that life is worth living." -Charles Henderson
If you live in the US, you're gearing up for Thanksgiving on Thursday. (If it isn't Thanksgiving where you live, I hope this post will start you thinking
about your December holiday.)
This Thanksgiving, as you gather with your extended family to celebrate the abundance of life, there are three gifts I hope you'll give yourself and your loved ones.
1. Remember to model gratitude for your child.
Even in difficult times, there is so much to be grateful for. That does NOT mean we plaster on a smile. It means that we acknowledge the fear, the heartbreak, the disappointment, the suffering.
At the same time, we resist armoring ourselves with cynicism or hate. We claim our aliveness with both hands and use it well, to create more good in the world. We see that life doesn't have to be anywhere near perfect to be perfectly wonderful. We draw strength from rejoicing in what's good.
(Want more ideas to add meaning to your family's holiday?)
2. Remember that the family members with whom you differ are doing the best they can.
It's easy to write others off when you disagree. But what if you just committed to curious compassion? To wondering what kind of suffering gave rise to
this person's assumptions about the world? To listen, to asking "What is it like to be you?"
That doesn't mean that you shrink from speaking your truth. And I am not suggesting that you need to "forgive" past abuse or ever allow yourself to be subjected to abuse.
Simply, we are all in this together. Tolerance takes us one step closer to the world we want to live in. Just as with children, your compassion invites others to be their best selves.
3. Remember that perfection is not attainable, and striving for that magazine-spread holiday will only stress you out and make you yell at your kids.
Luckily, perfection isn't necessary for you and your family to have a perfectly wonderful Thanksgiving.
You know those moments when pandemonium reigns, and your kids are spinning out of control, and your difficult relative is acting, well, difficult? When you have to choose between striving for a storybook Thanksgiving, versus grabbing your kids and getting them outside for some old fashioned fresh air before everyone loses their mind? There's not really a choice. Give up on perfection and go for love.
Storybook holidays are limited to storybooks. Real parents get reality parenting, complete with cranky kids, messy kitchens, and store-bought pie. But extraordinary moments often masquerade as ordinary life. So maybe what's perfect about Thanksgiving is the opportunity to notice what makes our lives worth living.
As author Meg Cox says, "It's especially important during the holidays to remember that aiming for a PERFECT holiday is actually a bad goal. Not only is perfection impossible and striving for it adds stress, but honestly, the holidays families remember most fondly are those when the dog ate the cake, or everybody got the flu on Thanksgiving. Play it loose, have a sense of humor..."
So look around the pandemonium and remind yourself to be grateful for every minute you get to spend with your children as they grow. For me, there's no gratitude deeper than that.