Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Falling Leaves

I love Thanksgiving. It might just be my favorite holiday. I didn’t grow up recognizing a national day of thanks and so I look forward to celebrating this year again. I love the way it smells, the weather is usually perfect, and there’s football to watch. You could accuse me of being an idealist, but I believe it is right that a nation has a day of thanksgiving. We should be people of gratitude no matter what our circumstances are. So stopping, remembering, and giving thanks is the right thing to do.

Thanksgiving is the sign that the holiday season has officially started. It’s the event that transitions us from everyday life to Christmas. From daily grind to joy to the world. We even put our tree up yesterday. There is, however, a flip side to my joy.

So why is there a flip side to my joy? Because this time of the year is not a time of great joy for some of my children. It is a reminder of broken relationships and people they no longer get to see. The irony of the holiday season is that there can be a direct correlation between my joy and my kids unhappiness.

Part One – About a Girl

We have an open adoption with my 10 year old daughter’s birth mother. She spent the weekend before Thanksgiving with us this year, but she isn’t always able to make that happen. It was good to have her with us, but I remember last year when she was unable to come and how that made my daughter sad. She has the expectation of seeing her birth mother when the family gets together to celebrate. Whenever she has unmet expectations it makes her sad.

Unmet expectations are often the source of conflict, hurt feelings, and sadness. We have to remember that we can’t leave our kids stuck, we have to engage them and we have to give them the voice that they need.

One of the many things I love about our relationship with our daughter is that she will talk about her feelings with us. She used to internalize everything but over the years she has trusted us enough to share. So, just before we started eating lunch last year she came over and told me that she was sad because her birth mom couldn’t be with us. And That’s what helped her process what she was dealing with, we talked about her feelings, we didn’t try to sweep them under the rug.

Part Two – About a Boy

This week has been difficult for my six year old son and I so far. He has been engaging in behaviors that are out of the ordinary for him. Like, say throwing a bunch of dog food out on the kitchen floor. He seems to be angry as well. To say that he has been pushing the established boundaries in our home would be an understatement. If I ask him to do something he will do the opposite. He has been running everywhere in the house and screaming more than he has been talking. He just hasn’t been himself.

It took me a couple of hours yesterday, and some help from my wife, to realize he isn’t defiant, or misbehaving, or any other label we could tag him with. He is just sad.

He is sad because family events and holidays make him miss his grandma. He doesn’t talk about her much but birthdays and holidays are hard for him. Remembering that has changed the way we’re interacting with him and we have seen a change in his behavior. Because “stop that” and “don’t run in the house” aren’t the answers…connection is. Increased connection to us is helping him not feel so sad because the source of his sadness is him missing his grandma.

Let’s remember to be full of thanks AND grace this Thanksgiving. May we remember that Christmas is about peace on earth and goodwill to all and may we apply that to our kids in abundance.

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