Being Present this Thanksgiving

Sometimes I am outright alarmed at how quickly a week passes and a new month begins. I try to appreciate the days, special occasions and activities that keep us so busy, but that doesn’t make them move any slower.

This last year or two I have been transitioning in “seasons of life” – for my first year of marriage I was in my final year of law school, then upon my first anniversary I found out I was pregnant. Since then it has been year in and year out of pregnancy and babies. Now, with 5 little ones running amuck the baby train has closed and my life feels very different. I find that I am constantly adjusting and trying to improve routines – and one trigger for me is a new month, a new season, the start of school and even holidays.

These are little ‘New Years’ for me. Sometimes they are for myself. For example, I have discovered that working out even 2 to 3 times a week is crucial for me to feel good about myself. In hand with this is diet. I had to reign in some bad habits – I (re)started that commitment at the start of the school year wanted to reach my goal before the holiday season began.  I follow this pattern of goal-setting with the kids too. My most recent adjustment was to improve dinner habits. It was time to graduate away from easy go-to kid foods and incorporate better balanced meals, with the hope of everyone eating the same thing. Update: we’re still working on it…

One thing I love about the holiday season ‘New Year’ is the focus on family, thankfulness and kindness. Even television commercials turn to messages around family and gratitude, and I’m always ready for this heartwarming refresher. How though, does this fresh awareness of gratitude translate into my routine? And particularly into Thanksgiving Day?

My husband and I decided to alternate spending Thanksgiving Day with our respective families. We both have multiple siblings with a growing number of nieces and nephews, so every year includes a classic Thanksgiving spread with people everywhere and children in every direction.  I genuinely love these times together. The food is exceptional, it’s fun being in our childhood homes, and we love being together and surrounded by family. But on a real level, we are just eating and attempting to feed the kids while we chase them and prevent fusses…all while timing the visit so we get the kids into pajamas and on the way home before we hit the proverbial wall.

family-picEspecially in past years with infants in tow, and certainly in this year with a full plate, and significantly, with everyone having full plates (yes, Thanksgiving pun intended) I was feeling apprehensive and exhausted at the thought of big family gatherings. Thanks to the wisdom of one of my sister-in-laws, who is more like a sister, I now am focusing on our presence at these gatherings. Having everyone under one roof, no matter how chaotic, is meaningful and is a gift to each other. It doesn’t feel that way to me when I’m unable to sit down, let alone have a conversation. But I do agree that our presence and time together – regardless of the conversation that we do or do not have – is something to be thankful for.

In a time and culture where we place a high value on enriching experiences for our children and ourselves, I think the simple times are underestimated greatly. So my newest goal is not a change to routine, but it’s simple gratitude for being present with each other. Thanksgiving Day is going to be a busy whirlwind day. Someone will probably be cranky, spill something and one or more of the kids will only eat bread and butter. But this year my goal is to just surf the chaos. Although I won’t be relaxing while we reminisce, I look forward to a new gratitude for just being there. I am and will be thankful for family, friends, good health and a table with plenty as every year, but this year I aspire to be present and enjoy those around me and making sure my family is surrounding them as well.

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