By: Judy Lyden
Thanksgiving is upon is - almost. There's travel, visitors, visiting, extra and special food buying, exploring kitchens, finding the stove, finding all the right pans, books and utensils, or just going over to grandma's because first, she has the stuff, and second she knows how to use it.
This year, at our house, we are having fourteen for dinner. That's a lot considering my husband and I came out here on our honeymoon to start a new job in a new place all by ourselves. Some of our kids are driving in, some just gathering.
It's funny how the years pass. They do go quickly, but each one has brought something new and interesting like new family members and new adventures. This year there will be two new guys, Paddy J and Robbie J, born a month apart this past spring. In addition there will be two three year olds, a six year old, and a sixteen year old, adults of varying ages, and then grandma and grandpa.
Unlike a lot of families who move a lot, all our Thanksgiving memories have taken place in this house, and that in itself is a joy. Coming home is like returning to the family album. It's something to think about when you buy a house or decide to stay someplace.
I'm so pleased that every one of them wants to come home for Thanksgiving. It makes me think I've done something right, so I'm going to share some things with new parents just getting started, so that years from now, your children will return home as well to you.
First, remember that Thanksgiving is an adult holiday. It's meant for visiting and showing off the kids. Kids couldn't care less about the food, but they do care about the adventure of it all. They like to be noticed and made a fuss over just as long as they get to do what they want for some of the time. Remember, kids are not good visitors, unless they are very familiar and there is a lot to do.
If you're not staying home, choose a place to visit where a child can play.
Your child will not want to sleep in on Thanksgiving Day. There's something new today, he's not sure what, but it MUST be investigated now, so waking early is a given. Don't start the day with a disappointment that you must also rise early. It's a holiday, and those special few moments in the morning can mean so much.
I remember nursing one of my infants as I watched dawn breaking through the window, and another small child peeped into the baby's room, "Is today Thanksgiving?" With a hug and kiss and a push to be downstairs first, it started the day with smiles.
Kids won't like the look of new and funky food, so make it fun. If you're making dinner, let them help peal potatoes and break the bread for stuffing. Let them sprinkle things on things. Let them help pack the bird. I always gave the turkey liver to the first child up to throw at the last child up. It always produced a lot of laughs. Then we gave it to the cat. I always think of liver as a body filter and eating a turkey filter is not an idea to relish.
The Macy's Day Parade was a must see every year. Now it's a total bore. Too bad, the kids used to enjoy it. Don't let the boredom of TV ruin the holiday. Get kids moving and make memories by including your child. Make sure there are some art supplies around.
Setting the table brought major wars at my house. This was always one of the coveted chores - who could decorate the table best? The children started early and ironed tablecloths, napkins, cut bittersweet, found candles and arranged strange looking things they collected around the house. There were times I wasn't sure if one could be seen across the table, but somehow, every year it worked, and every year we managed to pass the cranberry sauce.
This brings us to the cranberry war! Jellied or ground whole raw berries and orange?
It's always best for children to have something they really like at the table. Too many unfamiliar foods will cause children to balk, to cry, to want to run from the table. By starting with something simple and familiar like plain buttered mashed potatoes dropped onto the plate like a teddy bear face, children can enjoy a taste of this or that slowly and move comfortably and easily into the different tastes of Thanksgiving.
And don't be too strict about dinner when there are five desserts sitting ten feet away. Children are always going to prefer the fun foods to the table foods.
And make sure if your child has snacked all day, that the primary food he has at the table is a very cold glass of milk. It's probably all he needs at this point anyway.
Thanksgiving is a parent event, so making children the center is not going to work. This is a teaching holiday, so make it one and gently bring your child through it with a lot of laughter and some memory making fun. It makes them want to come home years later.