I went to my daughters’ Thanksgiving performance at their school yesterday. It was long, adorable, stuffy (augmented by my 3 year-old son who was stationed on my lap for the entire nearly 1 and a half hours – passed out. If we were home, he wouldn’t have napped, but the lights go out and he’s history). This is now the fourth such event I have attended at their school and it was the usual variation on the same theme - third grade does a square dance routine, fourth graders pull out the recorders, pre-k and kindergartners sing along to a tape - an accomplishment in itself in that fifty 4 and 5 year olds are on the stage for five minutes, standing in a somewhat orderly fashion with no tears.
This year they did add something new. Every first grader stepped forward and said what they were thankful for:
“My video game.”
“My bearded lizard.”
I don’t know what a bearded lizard is but I laughed along with the rest of the audience. I started thinking about what I am thankful for and brought it up with my daughters over breakfast this morning. I started the conversation by asking the girls if they knew why we celebrated Thanksgiving. Now mind you, I have this conversation with them every year, yet clearly my storytelling is not making an impact. Faced with blank stares (what are they teaching them at this school anyway?) I told them the story of the pilgrims who first came to America and celebrated their harvest with Native Americans with a giant feast. And how they all sat together and gave thanks. Then the three of us talked about what we were thankful for. My 7 year old automatically said “You.” My 5 year old said “Food,” which she doesn’t eat that much of. And I thought about what I am thankful for: Three healthy children. A loving husband. My health. A sense of humor. Patience. A supportive family. Friends. A roof over my head and food on the table. The basics – notice that my girls and I hit on the same blessings – not the shoes I just bought or a webkinz.
So on Thanksgiving – one of my favorite holidays as it’s not about the gifts, but getting together and eating delicious food – make sure to ask your kids what they are thankful for – and in turn tell them too. I love it when everyone at the Thanksgiving table says what they are thankful for. Yes, I have turned into that grownup that I rolled my eyes at in high school. It must happen to everyone. Another idea I just heard of is to have everyone write what they are thankful for on a slip of paper, put it in a bowl, and then the messages are read aloud at dinner, and kept anonymous. This simple act reminds us of why we get together and how lucky we are to be with people we love, whether it be 2 others or 30. It’s not just the football and the turkey, it’s the people. And the bearded lizard. Happy Thanksgiving.