I've never really been a fan of Thanksgiving. Partly because I've always felt like it was a fake celebration that misrepresents and whitewashes an event in American history that never actually happened. I don't want my kids to grow up believing that early colonialists and natives were friends, like I was taught. But, beyond that, for me anyway, Thanksgiving is so unbelievably stressful, especially now that I have kids. So stressful, that I'm skipping Thanksgiving this year.
It's not that I don't have a ton to be thankful for. For the most part, our family is happy and healthy. For the first time in many years, none of us have to work on Thanksgiving. The recent mid-term elections have given us some hope for a better future for all of us. We have so much to acknowledge and celebrate this year.
It's hard to feel thankful, when you have clean, cook, and host an elaborate dinner party in a house with children, which is kind of like eating Oreos and brushing your teeth at the same time. Each time I agree to host Thanksgiving dinner, I regret it. I find myself completely exhausted before the first guest even arrives, exhausted during the festivities, and then having to face down a sink full of dishes, a messy house, and overtired kids at bedtime.
Worse, though, is loading the kids in the car to attend someone else's celebration. Their home will likely not be entirely kid-friendly or baby-proofed to an appropriate degree. So, you will have to lug along gates, and play-yards, and follow your kids around the whole damn day, to keep them safe.
I always bring a ton of kid-friendly food along, because my kids are highly unlikely to enjoy what's being served, and two of them suffer from food allergies, which makes navigating holiday meals a nightmare. This means that I inevitably offend someone, or hear comments about my kids being "too picky" or me being "to indulgent." I feel like I just can't please everyone.
Thanksgiving, as we typically celebrate it in our culture, pretty much sucks for kids — and by extension their moms.
Also, Thanksgiving, as we typically celebrate it in our culture, pretty much sucks for kids — and by extension their moms. I don't know about you, but my kids thrive on routine. Thanksgiving places a wrench smack dab in the middle of our family's well-oiled machine. They will be asked to interact with new, or forgotten relatives, eat rich, unfamiliar food, and not make messes, or speak out of turn. When you think about it, kids can't really be kids on Thanksgiving.
It's really no wonder that our kids will inevitably throw tantrums, have potty accidents, refuse to eat, or throw up in the car. And I will not only have to help them navigate the unpleasantness, but I am bound to hear about it — at length — from my relatives and in-laws. In our extended family, moms are typically the default parent. So, while my husband puts his feet up and drinks beer with male relatives, I will be expected to manage to help put a meal on the table, and manage our kids at the same damn time. It's exhausting, and not how we generally choose to do things in our home.
Part of me loves the wisdom shared on holidays each year. Recipes are handed down from older generations and served at the dinner table. My parents and other relatives tell told of past holiday traditions from when my parents and grandparents were kids. However, I could do without being treated like a kid myself, even though I have been an adult for over two decades.
If past years' events are any indication, I will have to field unwanted questions, comments, and unsolicited advice about my parenting choices, new tattoo, hair color, weight, and what I put on my dinner plate. It's OK to have new traditions, especially when I came up with them, because the old traditions didn't work for me or our family. I am just so over being treated like a kid at Thanksgiving dinner. I am an adult, and I shouldn't have to justify my choices. Besides, I don't even treat my own kids like that.
So, I've decided to quit Thanksgiving this year. It's just too stressful. I am no longer planning to run myself into the ground, to create a perfect home, meal, or family for extended relatives and in-laws, only to have them criticize me anyway. I am not going to demand that my kids stop being kids. And I am not going to parent my kids differently than I do any other day. Which means I won't be changing our routine, and refuse to engage in meal time battles, or make them give anyone hugs or kisses.
As an adult, and a mom, I've finally realized that I get to decide what our family does on Thanksgiving. And that is something I am truly thankful for.
Instead, we are simply planning to stay home on Thanksgiving Day. We'll have a nice meal together, made up of foods everyone in our family can eat and enjoys, play a board game or two, and watch a non-holiday movie on Netflix. My husband and I will share parenting, meal prep, and cleaning responsibilities equally, like we usually do, when we aren't being pressured to otherwise, and we'll keep the traditions we like — namely pie, coffee, and wine.
Most importantly, I won't find myself having a panic attack in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, feeling like a terrible mother, or hiding in the bathroom with a bottle of wine. As an adult, and a mom, I've finally realized that I get to decide what our family does on Thanksgiving. And that is something I am truly thankful for.
Season 2 of Doula Diaries shares the stories of fearless doulas helping their clients take control of their births and make tough choices that feel right to them. Watch the first episode of the new season Monday, November 26th.