Thanksgiving: It’s All in the Family
Turkey Day! Ahhh. A much needed break that I am looking forward to, especially since I feel like my little family, now expanded by a new granddaughter, has so much to be thankful for. But I recently read an iVillage poll which found that 65 percent of all respondents are expecting some sort of family disagreement to break out before dessert is served on Thanksgiving Day.
And the disagreements aren’t usually about whether to serve pecan or pumpkin pie. For a lot of you, Thanksgiving has become that oh-so-unhappy day during which everyone gathers to carve up a lot more than the turkey. A sister might just happen to mention to another sister that it looks as if she’s gaining weight, and a mother-in-law might say something just slightly sarcastic about her son-in-law’s choice of careers. And then there is always Uncle Harry who drinks more than he eats, and starts flapping his big fat mouth, and tells embarrassing stories about his brother’s first marriage, or at some point, an overly-sensitive niece will break into tears because someone will ask her point-blank if she is EVER going to “catch” a husband!
Let me say right now that I recognize that it’s women who have to deal with most of the stress on Thanksgiving. In a lot of homes, while most of the men are sitting in the den watching football, their better halves are working their fingers to the bone preparing the meal, carefully setting the table, and then deciding where everyone should sit. The women create this perfect environment — only to see it ruined because everyone gets into a 30-minute feud over who gets to be buried in the last family plot at the cemetery. Or Dad starts extolling the virtues of Sarah Palin, which leads Jimmy, the nephew in college, to call her a lunatic, which then sets off 30 more minutes of shouting and finger-pointing across the table about the state of our country. No wonder one in 10 voters in the iVillage poll said they dread Thanksgiving!
May I make a tiny suggestion? If you’ve got one of those combustible families that are ready to go at each other at the drop of a hat, then maybe the thing to do is give them a little speech just before dinner is served. Tell them that you want this year to be a Thanksgiving where everybody leaves the table feeling good about him or herself. Then, before you serve the meal, you might want to try an old McGraw family tradition — have those at the table share one or two things that have happened in the last year that they are most thankful for.
At our house, we follow that tradition every year, in part because I’m a big believer in rituals, and in part because I believe in the importance of Thanksgiving Day – stopping our usual routines once a year and calling a time-out just so we can say our thank yous. You might set a similar tone for your family, saying that this is going to be a day in which you focus solely on celebrating the lives we’ve all been given — and, at least, for this one day, to put aside your disappointments. Then, give everyone a very pleasant smile, and off you go.
On this Thanksgiving, I know I have so much to celebrate. As I said earlier, since this time last year, I’ve become a grandfather. I’ve continued to watch my sons prosper, pursuing their passions in television and music. Robin simply amazes me with her energy, her ambition and her compassion. And I’m so grateful to my team at the Dr. Phil show for their dedication to making a difference.
May you find peace this Thanksgiving. And if that argument does eventually break out about that family cemetery plot, just keep smiling and try to remember: there’s always next year. As for me, I’m keeping my head low and my mouth full. Ahhh, Thanksgiving Day.