I blame Norman Rockwell. Or maybe the Saturday Evening Post. Somehow they took a holiday that was created to be about families thanking God for His blessings and created a competitive holiday. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your local magazine rack. Thanksgiving issues are all about having the best turkey or sides ever. The photos are absolutely stunning, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a turkey come out of the oven even closely resembling those.
So, around the country moms start planning and purchasing days and even weeks before. Many start cooking on Wednesday and cook all day Thursday. Often the kids are shooed out of the kitchen and told to watch the parade on television or go outside and play with their siblings or cousins. Why? Because in order for everything to be “perfect” for the most important meal of the year, we just don’t want all of those little ones “under foot”.
Yet, to ban your little ones from the kitchen is robbing them of some of the richness of what Thanksgiving was meant to be. Oh, your kids may complain they have to help. Your dinner may be ready later or come out in courses instead of all at once. Dishes may not look very photogenic. There will probably be extra kitchen mishaps. Yet encouraging your kids to join you and help prepare the Thanksgiving meal is a way to make Thanksgiving truly perfect for your kids.
Because, at the end of the day, kids don’t really care about how beautiful the turkey looks. Or even how great that fancy new side dish tasted. What they will remember and treasure is the time spent as a family in the kitchen together. They will remember learning how to master a new kitchen skill. They will remember finally be old enough to take on a “more important” cooking task.
Most of all, they will remember the conversations and the laughter. They will remember the hugs and kisses on the top of their heads. They will remember the satisfaction of your family working together as a team to pull off a really complex meal. They will remember what it feels like to be a very important part of the family, because what would you have done if little Johnny hadn’t torn the bread into pieces for the stuffing?
So put away those Norman Rockwell images of Thanksgiving in your head. Instead embrace a slightly less perfect, but warmer family effort. Spend quality time enjoying your kids and being a family. Really truly be thankful for your spouse and your little ones. It may not make a beautiful photograph, but it will be the Thanksgiving I think God really wants your family to have this year.