Thanksgiving with people you only see once a year

 

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**NOTE: This is written as a public service announcement and not as a reference to my own family which gets great.

Regardless of how well you get along with your relatives, trying to get through a long Thanksgiving day with them can turn into an awkward and emotionally charged event.

Aunt Edna is sure to tell the story about how you made a fool of yourself thirty-two years ago or Uncle Ralph will take the last serving of your favorite food.

Go into Thanksgiving with a plan or at least some ideas on how to turn the tide.

If we handed out well worn scripts at the door, many Thanksgiving meals would barely change from the lines already ingrained in our heads. While turkey and apple pie are worth repeating every year, there is no reason to re-live the craziness of meals past.

Instead go in with a plan to change the mood.

  1. Give up your right to be right — Every year, your brother tells the story about how he shot the squirrel out of the tree as a boy. You know it was you, but when you attempt a rejoinder it sounds like the whiny younger brother.  So this year, just nod along and tell him what a great shot it was.  If he expresses surprise that you aren’t fighting his version of the story then say, ‘I thought about it and I think you’re right.’
  2. Go in with a list of good things about each of your relatives — Instead of going with a list in your head of the worst thing each of your relatives have ever said or done to you, go in thinking about the best things they’ve ever done.  If the only thing Uncle Ralph ever did was take you to a baseball game one time when you are eight then remind me of how much that meant to you and how it made you feel special.  A woman who had a reputation for always saying something nice about others was challenged to say something good about the devil. “Well, he never gives up,” was her reply.
  3. Outwork everyone else — When the dishes are piling up and the tryptophan is telling you to get the best spot on the couch for a nap, grab an energy drink instead and wade into the dishes.  Keep working until the last plate is put away and when you’re done, offer to serve dessert. Make it your personal opportunity to serve everyone.
  4. Bring a fun craft idea for the kids. If you’ve got young kids in your extended family look up some craft ideas before you go.  Make turkeys with Oreo cookies, whoopers, frosting, and red hots (or google other similar ideas).  Be the fun uncle who plays hide-and-seek.
  5. Don’t whine about the traditions you don’t like.  Your mom wants family pictures or selfies with every grand kid.  Don’t roll your eyes or break out the heavy sighs. Instead, enjoy that such a simple thing brings great pleasure to those you love.

In short, don’t go to Thanksgiving like the turkey to slaughter.  Go in with the idea that you are going to do everything you can to help everyone else have a fun Thanksgiving.

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