Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. To me, it’s like Christmas, but without the stress of gift-buying. This year, with my boys being 3 and 6 years old, I decided to really emphasize to them what Thanksgiving is about, beyond the turkey, pies, and Santa crossing into Herald Square. They are incredibly fortunate to grow up without fear of running out of food, warm clothing, or shelter. They know they have a stable family that they can depend on to help them. They are lucky to be surrounded by caring adults. They have so much in their favor. It is important to me to teach them that this is not the case for all children everywhere. I certainly don’t want to frighten them, but in an age-appropriate way, I want them to know that these parts of their lives are things for which they should be grateful, and that because they aren’t facing adversity in their own life, it’s that much more important to reach out to those who are.
The big question is how? Well, one thing I’ve always felt strongly about is the importance of teaching kids to give back. This time of year, there are so very many opportunities to do so in a way that children, even young children, really understand. One thing I look forward to is shopping together for food drives and holiday gift drives. As is true in many families, the holidays stretch our family budget with travel expenses, gift buying, special food for celebrations, etc., but we make it a point to factor in some money for giving back and spreading holiday cheer to those facing hard times. My kids are the only grandchildren on both sides of the family, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that they do not *need* anything for Christmas. If you saw their bedrooms you’d agree…trust me! Santa is a part of our family’s holiday tradition, but we have worked hard to avoid letting the holiday season become a toy free-for-all. Our Santa brings each kid a few gifts, but for me, the real joy is in giving to children who otherwise wouldn’t receive holiday gifts.
We have also decided to kick off the holiday season by starting a new Thanksgiving tradition: Thankful Turkeys for the centerpiece to our family meal. Each day this month, we have named something each child is thankful to have. It has been eye-opening to them to realize things they take for granted, such as food and a warm place to sleep, are actually things they should be grateful for. I am looking forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.
I’ve always had a hard time with the excesses of the holiday season. While I love celebrating and being with family and friends, a part of me has always felt these things made it that much harder for families struggling just to get by. I have lots of hopes and wishes for my children as they grow up, but the one thing I hope more than any other is that the grow up grounded, thankful, and eager to help those around them.