"I have a plan, but then real life as a parent happens."
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.
Though the food is incredible, it’s not the main reason I love this holiday.
I absolutely love Thanksgiving because I get to be with my family, play games, work as a team to make a delicious feast, and reflect upon the things I am grateful for in my life. This vacation time, coupled with fun and my end-of-year gratitude recap, gives me a boost I can use to propel me through the next holiday and into the new year.
Maybe I’m overly optimistic about how the holiday festivities will go, but I always look forward to the potential for these beautiful family moments each and every Thanksgiving.
The thing I do tend to overlook in my “fantasy of the perfect family Thanksgiving” is that the experience of Thanksgiving as a parent tends to have some unexpected elements that add to the unpredictability of the holiday. This is because though I would love to plan every single moment with how I can possibly prevent dealing with explosive tantrums and insurmountable frustration, I can’t.
So, as a parent, approaching the uncontrollable events and emotions means being more fluid than runny gravy and dealing with these changes as they occur.
For instance, I always just assume that traveling to see my family will go smoothly, easily, quickly — only to realize that the assumption itself is a delusion. Though sometimes our drive has gone smoothly and we have arrived on time and unscathed, this is not a frequent event.
How it often goes is that we frantically pack and rush to leave only to hit terrible traffic where time and space seem to meld together into a standstill and walking starts to seem like a faster mode of transportation. The slow-moving mass of steel and exhaust starts to feel claustrophobic and, soon, an antsy child erupts. As a parent who has suffered through previous child meltdowns incurred by everything from forgetting toys to being overwhelmed and hungry while traveling, I try to plan for this by packing and overpacking. But it’s always difficult to foresee exactly what my child will be satisfied with and how long the distraction will last.
The same goes for meal and holiday preparation. I have a plan, but then real life as a parent happens.
This means sometimes my adorable little offspring distracts me from staying on task.
Once the juggling of impeccably timed baking coalesces into a picture-perfect meal, we all sit down with the expectation of relaxing as we calmly eat and express our gratitude. And as a non-parent, dinner seems to align with this expectation in this order: sit down, eat, and then talk over dessert.
However, as a parent, the meal goes just a bit differently and is usually accomplished with more whim than that of drunken fraternity BBQ.
After dinner, our intention is good: enjoy our chance to be together by playing games and sharing stories.
Yet, usually, that intention gets cut short by a food-induced coma. Then, with full stomachs and heavy eyelids, we pack up game pieces and pile on top of each other to watch a movie.
All in all, an idealized Thanksgiving is just that: ideals.
The ability to enjoy reality lies behind the intention of the love shared by being together, whether it all works out anything like my strategically fantasized plan or I decide to just wing it, go with the flow, and enjoy reality.