Some holidays are high on oxytocin, the mothering hormone that makes you actually love these little people who are running you ragged all year long. Other years the holidays are a matter of survival. Put one foot in front of the other. Focus in on their eyes. Listen to what's actually being said. Tune out the little monologue in your head and help yourself to another plate of turkey--tryptophan as mommy's little helper.
I'm having one of those Thanksgiving weekends this year. Nothing too tragic, just the overall awareness that nothing's perfect and there's more than a little repair work to be done in this fixer-upper life of mine. Here's my Rx for holidays that are more feel-better than feel-good.
Send in for the supersisters. Go ahead, lock yourself in the bathroom for five minutes and dial out. Your supersisters can totally hang with a five minute conversation to help you regain your equilibrium. An even better option? See if that tried-and-true friend will do the holidays with you. Everything got easier for me on Thursday when Fatou walked in the door.
Do what's right in front of you. That's right. Focus in on the next task and give it all your attention and love. If that means chopping, chop. If that means sweeping, sweep. By drilling down to this one essential moment, you open yourself up to a new point of view that isn't quite so glum.
Leave the heavy lifting for later. Now is not the time to fix your marriage or figure out the intricate missteps of your complicated childhood. No, leave that for another day when you have time and energy to make real progress. If you really cannot leave your family dysfunction on the back burner for now, throw in a movie and let someone else's fictitious rendition distract you. My dysfunctional family favorites? The Family Stone and One True Thing.
Let a little child lead you. Kids know how to have fun any day of the week, whether the turkey is ready or not. See if you can insert yourself in whatever game or activity has them going right now. A little lego-time, one chapter out of a favorite book, even running around and making noise--all of it will help you get out of your head and into the now.
Eject if necessary. Every mother has years where she needs a little break from all the chaos to get her bearings. Volunteer to run the errand, pick up the butter, take the dog for a walk. Even fifteen minutes out of the house can turn things around in a major way.
What helps you turn the holidays around?
What makes a great thanksgiving?
Being with great friends
Stand in grandparents when you can't be with your own
Turkey rubber duckies
Oscar the Cat
The edible pilgrim hat cookie craft
Playing highly competitive board games late into the night, boys vs. girls a must
Let's relish in the holiday a moment longer before the next holiday rolls over us. What made your Thanksgiving great? or not so great?
I used to have visions of lovely tables with artful placecards and cloth napkins, freshly bathed children and of-the-earth side dishes adorning a perfectly cooked organic free range turkey. This would be secondary, of course, to our long cherished holiday traditions rife with homemade charm and heartfelt sharing (see lovely note above). We would be one of those families, the ones that make your mouth gape open when you read about them in Mothering magazine. The ones who are so casually down to earth that surely they can only be nothing but absolutely perfect.
The real Thanksgiving (at least at my house) is way more complicated. There are no discernible traditions to speak of. We are more the pajama, wear-what-you-had-on yesterday kind of celebrants. The dishes are laden with preservatives, cream, butter and an ungodly amount of bacon. The guests are from down the street, up the block, around the world--a collection of stray friends with no where else to go, not to mention the occasional stranger.
This is how we do the holidays--laid back, open to outsiders, and for the most part, fairly stress-free.
There's no way to know which pieces of our holiday habits our kids will hold on to twenty Thanksgivings from now. I don't think my mother had any idea how all those years in the kitchen would turn out to be the most cherished memory of all--even if in reality she spent years doing all of the cooking before we were old enough to help. Still, these little quirky things we keep returning to are the stuff of our holiday stories. Our attempts at perfection will quickly be forgotten, but all the rest? That will stay, and for this I'm so, so glad.
Here's a little holiday survey to take with your kids. Use these questions on your own tribe or answer for yourself.
Do you have any memories of Thanksgiving when you were a little kid? (Little kids especially love to answer this kind of question.)
What's your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
Do you have a secret Thanksgiving wish?
Comments are open for your favorite replies.