If we wait for the turkey to get done, the house to be perfect, and guests to arrive, before we start celebrating, we will miss the greater part of Thanksgiving celebration. We have missed out on most of Thanksgiving joy, while waiting for that one defining moment - when we cut the turkey.
So many of us have such a narrow view of the holidays. We have been trained that the joy starts on the day of Thanksgiving. We can start celebrating weeks in advance. For example, we usually relish the idea of preparing our favorite meals. Between the time we put the menu together and the time we start cooking, what is supposed to be a joyful experience becomes a job.
On Thanksgiving we straggle into the kitchen tired, worn out, and ready for the whole ordeal to be over. This not only happens in celebrating holidays, but with parenting as well.
We come to the parenting game all bright eyed and alert. After a few years of parenting, we ask ourselves, what next? By the time these babes enter their teen years, we are waiting for the day when they LEAVE. Parties given for teens leaving for the armed services, training programs, and college are truly celebrations for parents.
Finally, we believe we are off that 24 hour never ending parenting shift. Only to find that it doesn't end. We are still on the hook. Our teens may be miles away; distance only adds to our anxious watchfulness.
Like a slow cooking bird, we labor over children, fuss over them, trim them, and baste them until they "look" just right. We really don't know what's on the inside until we are courageous enough to stand back and allow them to be tried, by life. Then we know.
It's at this stage that we learn there is no such thing as "off the parenting shift." What we do is adjust. We realize by now, that there is no day of celebration to regain freedom. Just a lessening, year by year, of the gnawing worry that accompanies being a parent. Every time we think they can take care of themselves, they do something that starts that "gnawing parenting" feeling again. We struggle to avoid expressing fears, and worries, because most of the time they don't receive our intense level of care for them well.
I hear it so often from young mothers, how they will be grateful when their toddlers get older; like us, they believe it will be easy, and when their children get older they can let down their hair and celebrate. I resist the desire, to say to them, "It only gets worse. At least you can watch them now, as they get older, you can only guess at what is happening in their lives."
So to every Thanksgiving celebrator, and every parent of a teen or young adult, don't wait for "the day" to celebrate. Celebrate all along the way. Here are some suggestions to make both, parenting and holiday celebrations, more enjoyable,
1. Be prepared for the expected. Know that you will not walk into any grocery store within a week of Thanksgiving and it will not be crowded. Expect to contend with the crowds. Put on your comfortable clothes, shoes, and be prepared to read every tabloid newspaper they have on the rack and then smile.
We know teens are mouthy. prepare yourself and ignore mouthy responses. Get comfortable with angry silence, they love that strategy, it breaks parents every time. Enjoy the peace.
2. Be prepared for the unexpected. It can happen. The store can run out of turkeys. What are we going to do? We always need a plan "B". Can we serve another excellent entrée of ours? We most likely will have to serve something different, with a smile.
So it is with teens. We have their futures planned. They will throw a wrench in the turning wheels. What will we do? Will we disown our teen? Will we give up on them? Or will we say to them and ourselves, "This isn't what we expected, but we can work with this situation," and then smile.
3. Stay calm at all times, this is a vital part of celebrating. We know that parking lots at every store will be crowded. We will have to walk further than we thought. Can we not see the beauty in this situation? We will get healthier with each extra step. So let's walk it with a smile.
Most of the time situations with teens and young adults aren't do or die; mostly the situations are inconvenient. Why are we so worried? Yes we expect them to be on the top tier of everything they try, although that expectation is unrealistic. As soon as we take an "I will be calm no matter what" position. The drama in our lives will drop significantly; parents will stop jumping on every drama wagon. Sometimes their drama is magnified by our response. So stay CALM!!
4. It's almost thanksgiving, and it's apparent that everything isn't going to get done. It's time to practice the most difficult of all strategies, acceptance. That's right, we can't meet everybody's expectations. Uncle Greedy Guts may want us to cook a whole cow. We may need to say to Uncle Greedy Guts "I can't this time you will have to be satisfied with the frozen, already cooked hamburgers in the freezer."
Teens are notorious for wanting the most impossible things at the most inopportune time. Attempting to satisfy all of their wants will surely interfere with enjoying our celebration process. Before we get one thing squared away for them, teens will have a list of ten more things they want. Practice acceptance; we can't give them everything they want. Neither can we be everything to them. If we are going to spend more time in celebration mode, we can't be people pleasers.
5. Finally, to enjoy the celebration process, we must not overload ourselves with responsibilities. It will always be something else to do: there will always be someone who needs something from us. Sometimes the answer is "no." You can say it with a smile, a scowl, an attitude good or bad. Sometimes the best thing we can do coming up to the holidays, is scale back on what we are doing. If we aren't careful we will get washed up in the frenzy of busyness that accompanies every holiday, and forget to be mindful and aware of all the beauty that surrounds us.
So it is with parenting teens, we may need to clear the calendar of their activities and just be with them. It's easy for others to dictate our schedules and lives. Our lives will revolve around athletic games, their academic pursuits, and their social lives. If we aren't careful we will no longer have a life or relationship with them. We will merely be their transporters; transporters them from one activity to another. Once they get their license, the problem becomes worse, we become a barrier between them and the car keys.
Life is a journey. It is punctuated by holidays which are supposed to give us reason to celebrate, just like parenting. In both cases we find ourselves not celebrating at all. Instead life becomes a big job. Remember, preparation of the Thanksgiving meal is as much a part of the celebration as eating the meal. The same is true of parenting. Getting children prepared for adulthood is as much a part of the celebration process as graduating from high school, college, and getting married
If we wait to celebrate only the big accomplishments we will miss out on most of the joy in this parenting journey.
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