When You Feel More Like Giving Spanks Than Thanks
The Top Five Frustrations with Thanksgiving When It's More Like Angst-giving
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of joy and gratitude, but sometimes it can also be a time of stress and annoyance. If you’ve ever celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family that gives you angst, you know what I’m talking about. Here are the top five frustrations that you might encounter on this “festive” occasion, and how to deal with them.
1. The traffic.
You’ve planned to leave early to avoid the rush, but somehow everyone else had the same idea. You find yourself stuck in a bumper-to-bumper jam, watching the minutes tick by as you inch closer to your destination. You start to wonder if you’ll make it in time for the dinner, or if you’ll have to settle for the leftovers. You curse the drivers who cut you off, the roadworks that slow you down, and the weather that makes everything worse.
How to deal with it: Take a deep breath and relax. Remember that you’re not the only one in this situation, and that getting angry won’t help. Listen to some music, podcasts, or audiobooks to pass the time. Or call your friends and family to let them know you’re on your way, and to catch up on the latest. And if you do arrive late, don’t worry. There’s always room for one more at the kids’ table and you can always reheat the food; piping hot gravy fixes everything.
2. The food.
While gravy fixes everything, still, you’ve been looking forward to the delicious feast that awaits you, but when you finally get to taste it, you’re disappointed. The turkey is dry, the stuffing is bland or has zucchini in it, the gravy is lumpy (OR THERE IS NONE,) the cranberry sauce isn’t the shape of a tin can, the mashed potatoes are too chunky, the green bean casserole is too mushy, the pumpkin pie has raisins in it, the whipped cream is too runny, and the jello casserole is, well, a jello casserole! You try to be polite and compliment the cook, but you secretly wish you had ordered pizza instead.
How to deal with it: Be grateful that you have food to eat, and that someone took the time and effort to prepare it for you. Remember that taste is subjective, and that not everyone likes the same things. Try to find something that you do like, and focus on that. Or mix and match the dishes to create your own flavor combinations. And if all else fails, ignore your mother’s warnings from your childhood and just fill up on bread!
3. The relatives.
You’ve been dreading this moment for weeks, but you can’t avoid it. You have to face your relatives, and their endless questions, comments, and criticisms. They ask you about your job, your relationship, your kids, your health, your finances, your politics, your religion, your hobbies, your plans, your dreams, and your opinions. And they don’t hesitate to tell you what they think of them, and how you should do things differently. They compare you to your siblings, your cousins, your friends, and your neighbors. They tell you stories that you’ve heard a hundred times before, and jokes that you don’t find funny. They argue with each other, and drag you into their drama. They make you feel guilty, angry, sad, or bored.
How to deal with it: Remember that they are your family, and that they love you, even if they don’t show it in the best way. Remember that they are human, and that they have their own issues, insecurities, and flaws. Remember that you don’t have to agree with them, or please them, or impress them. Just be yourself, and be respectful. A couple of hours of this out of your life won’t kill you (no killing allowed on Turkey Day, save the turkey.) Try to find common ground, and avoid topics that might cause conflict. Listen to them, and share with them, but don’t let them get to you. And if you need a break, excuse yourself and go for a walk, or find a quiet corner to relax with some pie.
4. The kids.
You love your kids, and you love your nieces and nephews, but sometimes they can be a handful. They run around the house, making noise, breaking things, and spilling things. They fight with each other, and cry for no reason. They demand your attention, and interrupt your conversations. They refuse to eat their food, and ask for more dessert. They complain that they’re bored, and ask to watch TV, play video games, or use your phone. They don’t listen to you, and don’t follow the rules. They make you feel exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed.
How to deal with it: Remember that they are kids, and that they are excited, curious, and energetic. Remember that they are learning, and that they need your guidance, patience, and love. Remember that they are having fun, and that they want you to join them. Try to see things from their perspective, and appreciate their innocence, creativity, and joy. Play with them, and teach them, and laugh with them. And if you need a break, ask for help from other adults, or set some boundaries and limits.
5. The cleanup.
You’ve survived the traffic, the food, the relatives, and the kids, but you’re not done yet. You still have to deal with the cleanup. You have to clear the table, wash the dishes, wipe the counters, sweep the floor, take out the trash, and put away the leftovers. You have to deal with the stains, the spills, the messes, and the smells. You have to work hard, while everyone else is relaxing, or leaving, or sleeping. You feel tired, sore, and resentful.
How to deal with it: Remember that you’re not alone, and that you can ask for help from others. Remember that you’re not a slave, and that you can delegate some tasks to others. Remember that you’re not a martyr, and that you can take some breaks and reward yourself. Try to make it fun, and turn it into a game, or a challenge, or a competition. Try to make it easy, and use some shortcuts, or hacks, or tools. And try to make it meaningful, and think of it as a way of showing your love, and your gratitude, and your generosity.
As for my Thanksgiving? Just me, my wife, and daughter this year. 😎 I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you find many reasons to be thankful, even when things go wrong (or not your kind of right.) And I hope you know that I’m thankful for you, and for your support, and for your feedback. As the scripture says, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)
God bless and happy Thanksgiving! 🦃