Thanksgiving 2024

Three of our four kids had the entire week of Thanksgiving off this year.

Before this long holiday, they were bemoaning the amount of work they had to do and how tedious going to school every day was, how they NEVER HAD ANY FREE TIME. With talk like this I was anticipating their joy at sleeping late, spending many hours lounging on the couch with electronics, and enjoying each other’s company.

By Sunday night, before their week off even began, some kids were complaining about being bored. Others were picking on their siblings until fights erupted. They were already bored and sick of each other and the entire week off loomed before us, dark and foreboding.

In bed that night Adam lamented what we have done wrong as parents. How did we manage to raise such spoiled, ungrateful kids?

Ungrateful kids! Hmph, I told Adam, we should make the crabby ones keep a gratitude journal. If they don’t do it, they go straight to therapy!

After a good nights sleep I woke up realizing I was operating from my own crabby place the night before. The restful morning made me realized forcing gratitude as a punishment was not a great parenting strategy. I also realized the irony of the situation. We were given this extra time off to celebrate our thanks. Instead of a punishment, why couldn’t we sell gratitude to our kids as something we are doing in keeping with the holiday spirit?

That morning I went out and bought 6 journals. Everyone was going to give gratitude, three times a day, during the entire holiday! I labelled each journal with each family member’s name and did my best sales job, selling gratitude to all of us thanksgiving observers.

We were driving to the orthodontist when I told the twins about it, I said they could say something small, something funny, something big, whatever they wanted.

Sam for example was enjoying the New York style bagels we had gone out to get that morning from our favorite bagel place. Earlier he had told me how much he loved warm, fresh bagels with cold cream cheese in the morning. Sam, I said, you have already fulfilled your first gratitude without even trying.

Aaron immediately pushed Sam and said, jokingly, he was grateful for fighting with Sam.

The gratitude journal put everything in a new light. Later that day when Aaron asked if he could buy some Roblux (game money in the gaming platform Roblox) and I said yes. Instead of asking him to thank me and getting a begrudging thanks in return, I said, wow I’m making this gratitude journal so easy for you. He laughed and said, right?!

When Ben came home from school I told him about it. He had a good day at school and was excited to write down the many reasons why. Ben also helped me get my pizza roller out because my hands were too floury. After he got it for me, instead of thanks I told him I was grateful for him. He had a giggle about that.

Jack took the journals and relabeled them all so everyone was confused. Then to make matters crazier he copied what Aaron was grateful for that day. I wasn’t sure my sales job did the trick on him. Still the others in the house dutifully filled out their journals. Some took it quite seriously. Adam woke up each morning and wrote his down before his day even began!

Meanwhile I took the extra days off to get all the things done we NEVER HAD ANY FREE TIME to do (see first paragraph). Orthodontist appointments, dentist cleanings, ACT prep classes and driving lessons peppered each day.

On Thanksgiving morning we ran the Turkey Trot.

Turkey Trot in Lincoln Park

That afternoon, while the rest of the family moaned about cramps, rested with electronics or football, and/or fell asleep all over the couches and rooms of the house, I cooked a feast.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Afterwards, we broke out the gratitude journals and shared them.

Sharing our Gratitude Journals

I’m not sure if the journals kept the kids from fighting or complaining, or if all the fun we had over the holiday made them less whiny, but it was a fun activity for all. I liked getting an insight into what everyone else in the house appreciated.

Sam, who is always so clever that sometimes his thoughts are too high level for me to understand, wrote one day, “Mom did not buy brownies.” Sounds ungrateful, right? But actually, it was grateful. About a week ago we pulled out a cookie cookbook that Japo (Hakka Chinese word for Grandma) bought Ben for his 10th birthday. Sam carefully went through and selected his top three recipes and we spent the next week cooking them together. One of his picks was the Mississippi Mud Brownie.

Making Mississippi Mud Brownies

Jack was grateful for watching his buddies plow each other over and fall all over the place when they went to the Maggie Daley Ice Skating Rink earlier this week. I was equally grateful that day for Jack spending time with friends. Since we practically live in a frat house, Jack doesn’t feel the need to connect with his friends as much as I did when I was that age, so it’s always nice when I see him spend time with his peers.

I was even more grateful that Jack did his first highway driving and parallel parking with a professional driver instead of scaring the bejesus out of me this week.

Ben was most grateful for his Turkey Trot metal. In fact, after the run all the kids were so jazzed by the experience that I immediately signed us all up for the Shamrock Shuffle in March.

Aaron made jokes the entire time we shared our journals but I peeked in his and the one that surprised me most was, “I feel much better after throwing up twice today.” I liked how he could find the silver lining in such a terrible experience. I also was grateful that day for Aaron managing to throw up entirely in the toilet instead of on the floor, at least for the first upchuck.

Adam’s thanks were mostly about his appreciation for his family and being able to spend time with them.❤️

Adam spent most evenings teaching the boys this week gambling, but in typical Adam fashion, there was also a learning opportunity here. He drilled into them how statistically it was a losing game, and proved it each night. They especially learned how stupid it was to play blackjack. Having said all that, I think Aaron and Ben are addicted anyway.

Black Jack

We rounded out the weekend with a trip to the movie theater to see The Marvels. Again I was grateful that all the boys wanted to go see women superheros kicking butt. We have come a long way since I was a kid as far as women role models.

I hope everyone reading this had their own grateful Thanksgiving! If not, may I suggest a gratitude journal?

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