Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This year was the first year I doubted our tradition of helping at the church for the "Feast of Plenty".

I've never questioned whether volunteering on Thanksgiving as a family was "good" for the kids -- I just assumed that it was good for them to learn about giving of themselves in order to show gratitude for all that we have. Humility and service are so hard to teach, but so important...any opportunity is a good one.

We usually get strange looks when we tell people about doing that for Thanksgiving -- the ones that say, "Oh, that's nice, but you're a little strange..." (Now, we always do a "traditional" thanksgiving -- we just do it on Friday rather than on Thursday -- so we're not robbing them of turkey-day festivities.)

But this year, as we left the house to get to the church, Glen was stifling sadness. He was doing a good job of trying not to show it, but what he wanted was to have a thanksgiving like the ones they talked about in school all week. He wanted to sit around the table with family and eat turkey and casserole and play games and watch movies -- he didn't really want to go bus tables for homeless or otherwise very disadvantaged people for two hours, then wash dishes.

I just felt awful all the whole drive there. Doubt, guilt, and a little more doubt... are we "ruining" their perception of holidays? Are we warping them, and will they come to resent volunteer work? Will they think forever that I put other people first and them last? Oh, jeez, parenting certainly hasn't helped me deal with this stupid "guilt" problem I've got...

Anyway, all the kids were WONDERFUL for the whole Feast of plenty, and we stayed until nearly 4 pm cleaning and putting things away until next year, and then we went to Grandma's and had a nice little dinner and watched a movie, and everyone seemed to be pretty happy.

Then on Friday, we went back over to mom and dad's for the afternoon, and they prepared a fabulous feast of thanksgiving-y-ness, and everyone had the most marvelous unstructured play time all afternoon. When Larry got off work, we all sat down to our Thanksgiving meal (Gideon ate almost exclusivley summer sausage, but whatever...).

Then the two little guys wanted to watch Wall-E (again, and again, and again), and the rest of us played Rummy around the kitchen table. (It was a big leap from "go fish", and the adults are so happy to have a new game to play!).

After Grandpa had cleaned us out three or four games in a row, Glen looked around the table at everyone, just glowing from head to toe, and said, "Now THIS is Thanksgiving."

So, all that guilt and doubt for nothing. We may have taught them that sometimes you have to put other people first, and then have what you want later. And we may have taught them that we don't always do the same things that other people do. And hopefully we've taught them that we love them very much and expect a lot from them, even when it's not what they want.

But I don't think we're 'warping' them, or their holidays. And thank goodness.... now if I can just remember this next year, when it all happens again...