Holidays Are About Family, Not Perfection

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As a child, I was to be seen, not heard. I was to speak when spoken to, and when I spoke it was to be brief and respectful. Holiday traditions were to be handed down, not improved upon and certainly not questioned or changed. As a child up through my college years, my job during Thanksgiving and Christmas was to set the table and observe so one day I could go through all the stress of roasting a turkey, making sure everyone had their favorite dish, and ensure everything was perfect. Very rarely was everything perfect. Someone always had a story of a debacle from the year before, whether it was forgetting the cranberry jelly and going on a search Thanksgiving Day for that important item (that I don’t think anyone ever touched), the turkey being dried out, or Daddy or Gramps telling that story that should never be told at the dining room table (possibly about the problems of previous years); perfection was hard to achieve when family was present.

That being said, some of my favorite memories of the holidays were of the imperfect moments. When Daddy changed our Thanksgiving Day dress code by wearing a polo shirt to eat at the formal dining room table or when we finally wore my mother down to allow me to contribute to the actual food by making the dinner rolls from scratch (the first three years she did buy some and hid, just in case they weren’t fit for consumption, which I am proud to say they were never used). These will be the moments I remember. Over the last few years, I was even allowed to cook the turkey. That was only because the last one my mother bought was so horribly dry that she was at her wits’ end and finally agreed to let me take a shot at it. I must say, both my deep-fried turkey and grilled turkey were met with skepticism ahead of time, but when it came time to eat, let’s just say there was a side of crow that went with that turkey, making it a very fulfilling Thanksgiving.

In an effort of making a truly fantastic family event, I would suggest including the children at a young age and give them their own task to make them feel included, take some ownership, and increase their self-esteem during these family events. Are they young and good at coloring? Maybe it should be their job to color placemats for everyone or perhaps place cards. If they are good with scissors, maybe they would like to cut out paper leaves and turkeys to decorate the table with. As they get older, perhaps they could do the centerpiece, bake a special dessert, or say grace. A cookie-decorating bar is always a great pastime for the holidays. Maybe they are dramatic and would like to offer up some entertainment for the special day with a skit, puppet show, or video.

There are tons of ways to include your children with a project and make them feel special about the holiday. There is also a side benefit. While they are busy doing their thing to wow the family, you will have a little time to work on that yummy turkey, sweet potato casserole, or take in the game. Will your holiday be picture perfect, ready for the centerfold of a magazine? Doubtful, you may end up with a Thanksgiving tribute in the center of your formal dining room table made of plastic building blocks, but it will create those family memories that will stay with them and you a lifetime. What could be more perfect than that?

For more information, please contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276 or by E-mail at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.