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Debriefing Thanksgiving

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Let me ask you, friends, “How did it go? You know- Thanksgiving?” What would you say? Could it be that many of you would answer, “Ugh, I’m so glad it’s over?” Or how about, “Next year, we’re definitely not including Uncle Jim- he’s out of control.”

Holidays are stressful because of the workload and odd personalities but I do believe that we often make them worse. For instance, have you ever invited family and friends to your home and insisted on cooking the whole meal? Of course you have and I say, shame on you- you’re setting yourself up for too much stress. And when you put too much on yourself, you might turn into someone that no one wants to be around. Believe me, I’ve been that person who is angry at guests for making my life so hard long before they leave.  I see women (usually) use the holidays as a time to prove to loved ones and friends that they can do it all: clean the house, set a lovely table, buy the turkey and the trimmings, bake pies, make the kids take showers and dress up and then put on a smile when everyone shows up. They are happy- it is Thanksgiving after all and life is to be celebrated! After family exchanges pleasantries, the turkey is served; everyone wolfs the meal down in fifteen minutes. This is not Europe. We eat and watch football, we do not linger to talk and debate.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 11.08.58 AMThen these super women turn to the kitchen and there in the sink is a pile of dishes as high as the Eiffel Tower. Thanksgiving is the time when the nicest glassware and china comes out. So they roll up their sleeves and dive into the dishes, insisting that others stay where they are (chatting in the living room or watching football) and enjoy their day. When it is finally time for all to leave, these ladies are in such bad moods that every part of their demeanor screams, how dare you come into my home and make me work so hard!

Thanksgiving is not a time to show how capable we are; rather it is a time to see family and friends and let them know that even though we may disagree, rarely see one another or argue about raising children, it is a time to set aside grievances and let others know that we are thankful that they are alive. We are thankful that God has brought them (and us) through one more year. We are alive, healthy (or mostly healthy) and capable of sitting at a table and eating turkey, stuffing and pie.

Why do we spend so much time focused on ourselves and working to outperform ourselves from last year or another family member? The truth is, we have nothing to prove because that’s not what Thanksgiving is all about.  It is a time to gather as a unit and exchange thanks. So if we are going to do that and be nice and pleasant about it, how dare we set ourselves and others up for experiencing the misery of us stressing?

Let’s not do this anymore. Next year, if you invite family and friends to your home, ask them to bring some food. If they are on a tight budget, they can bring potatoes. If all your guests are on a tight budget, wouldn’t it be kinder of you to ask them to bring whatever they can – even if turkey never shows up- and eat together with you relaxing and enjoying their company rather than invite them into your clean home, beautifully set table while you act like a monster? Of course it would.

We all want to enjoy loved ones and friends but we also want (and deserve) to be enjoyed. So next year, how about we try taking some of the focus off of ourselves by showing off our cooking skills, the “best” way to make stuffing, the juiciest turkey or highest meringue on the lemon pie and spend time thinking about what we can really do to make the day pleasant for our guests. That would be, of course, being a more patient and pleasant person to be around.

I’m going to go for it and I must say, as an overachiever in a large family, I have come to love having my enormous and loud family over.  How? I clean the house and they do the cooking. And, we either all clean up together or we eat on paper plates.  It’s their choice.

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