Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 Ways Kids Ruin Thanksgiving Dinner

Here’s something we should all already know about Thanksgiving with small children. Contrary to your hopes and imagination, the day will, at least at some point, be more Rocky Horror than Rockwell. Every year, at least one of my offspring -- or failing that, the dog -- will invariably find a way to derail the family’s dining experience.

My husband does all the work of preparing the big meals on the big holidays. Even the shopping, you guys. I love his ass so much for that. Until I became an adult and had to shop for, buy, make fridge room for, prep, chop, stir, whisk, simmer, baste, and roast a holiday meal – I had no idea just how much work went into Thanksgiving dinner. And given that the whole holiday has evolved from and revolves around the meal itself, I find it distressing and ironic that one of the following five things will usually happen.

1. The ill-timed nap
Someone will fall asleep 5 minutes before the turkey hits the table. It’s inevitable. Then you’re faced with the following choice: let them sleep or wake them up.  If you let the kid sleep through dinner, then it’s not officially a “real” family dinner because not everyone is at the table.  But if you wake them up, it could lead to…

2. The holiday melt-down
If you insist on waking up a 3 year old who wants to be asleep, guess what’s going to happen? There will be tears and yelling and mucous streaming and maybe that thing where you try to pick them up and suddenly they go limp and somehow increase their body mass by 400%, leading to a thrown out back and a turkey you can't lift out of the oven. But let’s be honest, kids aren’t the only ones who have melt downs. I used to suffer from Griswold Syndrome, where my ineffectual pursuit of the perfect family holiday would result in getting my B on and being truly lovely to be around.  And then there's the tantrum that invariably happens when you find you didn't buy some critical ingredient, and every store is closed even though all of America is cooking.

3. This tastes weird
Imagine spending 10 hours cooking a meal, then serving something to a group of people whose duty it is to praise the food and the effort, no matter what it tastes like. Little kids don’t get that. They just know what they like. That citrus cranberry relish may be good enough for Julia Child herself, but a 5 year old is just going to see that’s it not macaroni and cheese. And most will comment on that. They will also praise that which they like the best. “These rolls are really good. They’re from the freezer, right? I could eat ten of these.”

4. Something bathroom-related
One of two things may happen here. Someone small will really need to go to the bathroom and decide not to go, resulting in some covert sniffing followed by a conversation that includes the sentence: “Does anyone know where that smell is coming from?”  The other option is the opposite. Someone will decide to hop up and use the bathroom likes it’s their damn job at least ten times during the meal. Each trip will be punctuated by cries of: “I have to pee!” or “Momma! Wipe my bottom!” or “There’s something on the floor in here!”

5. Speed eating so they can go watch TV
For some reason, on Thanksgiving, the TV seems to be on for a good chunk of the day. It starts with the parade in the morning, followed by an old movie or some holiday specials, and then of course… football. So while I’d like to say this is just a kid thing, I’d be lying. While the smaller ones may run for the TV in order to take control of the remote from the grown-ups for a few fleeting moments, the adults may do it, too, sensing an imminent touchdown and scarfing down their dinners in the hopes of seeing it happen.

All these things happen and you know what? It’s cool. Kids are supposed to be kids, and I’ve learned the hard way that nothing is perfect or ever goes as planned. What I’m looking for is a moment, even if it’s brief, where we’re all together and on the same page. We have food – we are so lucky.  We are warm inside on a cold day – so many are not. We are together - isn’t that awesome?! We’re grateful for it all. That one moment makes the day a success for me.  And it makes it a lot easier to giggle when I have to ask where that smell is coming from.

The awesome people at Sweet Relish are working with us to help moms in need this holiday season. They will donate $1 in gift cards for every person who joins their site and follows me (up to $5,000!!). If you're too busy or too broke to help to a family in need this year, here is one really quick and easy way to help.  It only takes a minute and is really useful and fun.

To join Sweet Relish and follow me, click here.

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(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012


  1. Haha LOVE this! I especially relate to the part where they go all limp- known as Betty Spaghetti in my house :-D


  2. Just what I needed to read this morning. Because oh my yes. And I tried to comment at Babble, but I don't know if it worked. Anyway, knowing now that Griswold Syndrome is real, and I am not alone in my suffering really comforts me. It is too soon to talk telethon to raise much needed spa getaway funds for those of us with this debilitating disease? ;)

  3. We serve homemade, soul food style macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving. It's helped with the whining.

  4. Adding a couple:
    #6 - someone has a stomach virus (this has happened more than once at my house)
    #7 - my hell this year is that I just found out that one of the children who attended a b-day party at my home on Sunday has head lice. Treating the entire house/family for head lice is NOT my idea of a holiday. UGH!!! Though I am grateful that I was told!

  5. Nail on the head. I'm thankful for bread and butter, and that on Thanksgiving, I really don't care if that's all my kids eat as long as no one talks about how the stuffing looks like poop.

  6. We had a classic #4 with my 10 month old daughter this morning. It was five minutes until the start of the parade and I thought I could get her in the bath and down for her first nap before it started (I also thought I would have time to watch it before cooking- obviously I am delusional). She LOVES baths, so she was dancing, naked, while I filled the tub. She peed on the bath mat and I thought nothing of it, I just cleaned it up. Then I realized that the water was a little cold so I adjusted the temperature so i could get her into the tub - and then i smelled something. It was a fairly solid poo, so i quickly cleaned it up and proceeded to put her in the bath, assuming she had emptied her bladder and bowels and was ready for a bath. I was wrong. She continued to poo throughout the tub, and when I took her out, she resumed her business on the bath mat and around the bathroom. NO ONE IN THE WHOLE HOUSE SEEMED TO CARE! I couldn't keep up with the pooing, and the baby was happy as could be, playing and pooing all over the bathroom. My eye has been twitching ever since...

  7. Yesterday my twenty year old son picked up his not-quite-two year old cousin. My nephew proceeded to barf all down the front of my son - from shoulder to the hem of his shorts - and said son is six foot, three inches tall! Nephew missed his own clothes completely (and hence was able to continue to wear his Moss jersey for the Redskins-Cowboys game, go skins1). Son handled it like a pro - no yelling, no flinging of the offender across the room. Just laughed and asked an older cousin for some clothes. Since he handled it so well, i was a nice momma and washed his clothes off for him!

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