Thanksgiving was a wild success this year. When things run smooth and are full of sweet memories, it feels like a dream. Holidays can be this special if you know when to join in and when to take a break.
From the time I can remember, Thanksgiving was expertly executed by my Moma. Cooking a turkey at home or booking a flight to New England for the weekend at my uncle’s happened without a hitch. I have many fond memories.
In my twenties skipping classes and a lack of motivation (aka-ADHD without a purpose) became the norm for me as I slowly made my way through college. During those years Thanksgiving faded. I felt a pang of nostalgia when I heard “Home for the Holidays.” The year I worked at a soup kitchen was my most memorable of those “in between” years. I didn’t make enough money to fly North for the holidays and the truth was I needed to work my bartending job on the biggest shopping weekend of the year. I missed out on a few family Holiday dinners. If I made it, I showed up disheveled and burnt out.
A Holiday Highlight
Once I had my first child, a favorite Thanksgiving is one I spent with my father at his house in VA with my son, brother-in-law, mother-in-law and husband. We’ve since lost my brother-in-law so the memory of that big man with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye riding my dad’s small Ducati fills my soul. It’s also the first year I made my mom’s famous sausage stuffing with my father’s help. I hadn’t cooked a Thanksgiving meal with him since I was a child.
An unfortunate memory was the year my uncle finally came to D.C. after years of hosting many Thanksgivings in Massachusetts. Running after my busy, ADHD child kept me from stirring a whole pot of post-Turkey Day stew.
It was burnt. Dinner for 10 was ruined and I was ashamed. If you have an ADHD child, that kind of distraction is the norm. But taking an ADHD kiddo around a bunch of adults during the holidays was a recipe for disaster for me.
HOLIDAY TRUTHS FOR ADHD PARENTS:
- If you have a child who simply will not listen, I get it.
- If you want to escape the extended family judgment and book a flight to Tahiti as soon as Nov 1st rolls around, I understand your pain.
- When you raise your kids differently than you were raised, it’s hard to bring them around extended family. Not because your way is better, but because you’re willing to experiment so you have to answer questions. Forget thick skin, you need a suit of armor plus the patience of a preschool teacher.
- Maybe you’re sick of explaining yourself. Maybe you’re tired of missing all the adult conversation because your child is the energizer bunny.
- If you’re always replacing broken items after family gatherings, you may seriously consider “Thanksgiving Vacation” or other Holiday tweaks on my list.
ALTERNATIVE THANKSGIVING PLANS
I’m impressed this Thanksgiving was such a success. Although Thanksgiving has always been something to be grateful for, it hasn’t always been easy. But making it a vacation and choosing to be with my children’s playmates and other adults who parent like we do was a breath of fresh air. It was work, but it was also mimosas and laughter. It was a 2-year-old at the table all of 10 minutes. It was a kindred spirit of a mom who said “let her go play with the dog,” as we proceeded to drink our wine and savor our meal. It was swimming in the pool, hiking trails, the Riverwalk, Austin, The Alamo, Gruene, lots of adult conversation and kids entertaining each other.
HOLIDAY TAKE-AWAYS: tweaks to make the holidays work for you.
Holidays can be stressful because expectations are heightened. Take the pressure off yourself and your children. If you can take time off to spend with your extended family, do it when it’s not also dinner for 40. Over the summer, or during a long weekend may be a better time to visit. Choose the most important holidays and work with your parents or extended family so you enjoy it, too. Cater lunch if there are evening meltdowns. Host or request brunch after early gift-opening and bring/play with the gifts so kids are engaged and you can actually talk to the other adults at your gathering. Have experiences with grandparents, like ice-skating, or cookie-making, instead of just a meal. Make the holidays the blessing they should be, even with bright, rowdy, fun-loving children!