Friday, November 23, 2012

Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

When Eiledon was a baby and Gavin on the way, Dan and I had a discussion about the importance of family dinners.  We both grew up in happy, healthy homes and had many fond memories of times around the table, and this was something we wanted for our own little family.  Up to that point, our dining together had been very informal and often in front of the television.  So in 2001, we made a New Year’s Resolution to have dinner at the table as a family thenceforth.  And so we have.

Of course, we couldn’t have known at the time that our children would both have ADHD, which makes it impossible for them to sit still, and sensory processing disorders that make them both extremely picky eaters (and not even picky in the same way).  For years, dinnertime has been an exercise in barely-controlled chaos and not one we as parents have much enjoyed.  But we persevere and it’s a non-negotiable with our kids: we eat our evening meal at the table.  Therefore we accept that meals are loud, often fraught with drama, and extremely short.  The kids have a hard time conversing appropriately, eating with decorum, or remaining one millisecond longer than the moment they’re full.

Holidays are no exception and many a Thanksgiving dinner has ended with rolled eyes and shrugs from Dan and me as we cleaned up, mildly disappointed by the distinct lack of Norman Rockwell sensibility to the event. 

This year, we had invited extended family for Turkey Day but it didn’t work out, so we decided to just lie low at home.  I made a small bird and a few simple fixings and set all on the table at noon, with formal china and crystal, and set aside all expectations of placid sentimentality.

But from the start, something was different about this year.  The kids were both at the table as soon as they were called, with no cajoling or threatening on my part.  They sat still while I took some pictures.  They were quiet and thoughtful while we prayed and filled our plates.  Who were these people and what had they done with my children?

Then the real magic happened.  I asked each person at the table to share five things they were thankful for.  Aside from family.  Because in addition, each of us had to say why we were grateful for each other.  Sure, there were plenty of gratitudes about video games.  But there were also moments of transcendent beauty.

Eiledon said she was grateful for the bullies at her school, because they were teaching her to stand up for herself.  Gavin was grateful for his sister because she was “full of joy and fun.”  Both kids were grateful for their father’s love of music and sharing music with them.  They got to hear Dan and me say how grateful we were to have each other as our best friend, and how grateful we were for all the gifts and joys our children bring to our lives.

Truly, it was a moving experience.  Sure, toward the end, they started to get a little antsy, but they ate everything on their plates (another miracle), and asked politely to be excused.  As they left, I glanced at the clock and realized they had sat with us for nearly forty minutes.  I shared this with Dan, incredulous, and as we finished up in each other’s company, we marveled at the gift that had just been given us.

Of course it didn’t last.  Lunch today was quite back to normal.  But we know it’s in there somewhere.  And what we were most thankful for this Thanksgiving was the opportunity to experience something so beautiful with our amazing, wonderful family around the dinner table.


  1. You have a beautiful family (metaphorically and literally); and now you're getting to see glimpses of the 'grown ups' your children are becoming. A true reason for gratitude and joy, indeed.

    1. Thanks, Stef. They really are wonderful. I just need to remember that when they're driving me up the wall!