Thanksgiving is a weird holiday.
The story goes like this. A group of people left their homes and got on a boat to brave the open sea in order to find religious freedom. On the way, a few of them died, a few caught diseases (and then died later) and everyone had a generally miserable time. Then they made it to Plymouth Rock and had to fend for themselves against the animals and elements in wholly unfamiliar territory. Somewhere along the line, we’re told, the people who had been living there all along welcomed the newcomers, showed them how to grow maize and gave them other hints for staying alive in their new environment. Oh, and everybody got together on Thursday to kill a turkey, eat themselves into food comas and watch
the Detroit Lions lose a bunch of football.
I’m not sure how much I buy of the Thanksgiving story that we were all told in grade school. I believe there was a group of pilgrims who sailed to North America on a ship called the Mayflower. I believe that there was a tribe of people already living here and that they interacted with said pilgrims. I’m even willing to believe that most of the interactions were fairly peaceful, though I haven’t quite decided if I think that peace came before or after one of the tribe members was killed by a pilgrim’s musket shot.1 What I’m not willing to believe is that a group of people who had been living in one place for hundreds of years saw a new group of people show up one day and automatically offered them food and shelter. I’m sorry if that sounds overly cynical, but I think the alternative sounds too rosy to be believed.
If we put aside the flaws in the retelling of history that we’ve received, though, we’re still left with a holiday that is supposed to be about identifying the parts of our lives that make us happy and trying not to take them for granted. We should probably be doing this every day, in theory, but in the midst of jobs, errands and the demands of parenting, it’s understandable that we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. In honor of the upcoming holiday, I figured I would devote this week’s post to five things for which I’m thankful. Some of the entries in the list are to be expected, but I tried to focus on some more specific and non-traditional ways of looking at things.
1. My wife’s organizational skills
I once watched a video of Mark Gungor, a pastor who does a lot of work regarding relationships and marriages, explaining the differences between men’s and women’s brains and how their thought processes work. I recommend watching the video, especially since I won’t explain it as well, but the bottom line for me was the difference between the brain’s resting states. A man’s brain at rest is essentially empty. It wakes up in order to access information or to complete a task but when the task is finished, it goes back to its blank state. A woman’s brain, though, is constantly moving, thinking about work, upcoming events, children, errands and anything else that one might think of. Trudy and I fit these descriptions perfectly. Trudy’s brain is constantly juggling scheduling issues, shopping lists, activity ideas, family obligations and anything else that a person would have to think about on a given day. I put information in my calendar or my address book or my to-do list and then promptly forget about it because I assume I’ll look at the list later on and remember.2 I’m pretty sure I’m on top of things more than I’m not, but Trudy is the master.
2. Toddler enthusiasm
Kids can be really easily influenced. They learn, as they get older, but when they’re young, you can pretty much get them to do anything you want as long as you frame it the right way. My father has often told stories about how, when I was little, all it took was a little inflection to get me excited about something. His eyes would go wide and he would ask me, “Hey, Aaron, you want to go to Walgreens?” My face would light up and I would respond with an emphatic “Yeah!” Just this past weekend, Trudy and I got Eitan really amped up about going food shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, one of the most awful activities ever imagined. And don’t even get me started about how excited my youngest brother used to get when his older siblings told him it would be fun for him to pretend to be a dog and play “Fetch.”
3. Sesame Street
Let me start by saying that I’m not a big fan of using television as a babysitting service. Kids, especially toddlers, need face to face interaction in order to stimulate language and social skills development. That being said, we all know that parents need breaks and parents need to get things done. When Eitan first wakes up in the morning, he’s not quite ready to play or eat or actually do anything (just like most people when they first wake up). So I have no problem turning on an episode of Sesame Street to occupy him for a little while if it means I can get ready for work in peace. Plus, there have been times when Eitan has made associations with letters and numbers, so apparently he’s learning from what he’s watching.3
4. Toddler language
Speaking of language development, there are few things funnier than watching kids learning to use their words. I don’t necessarily mean when young children start echoing the curse words they hear their parents using, although those cases are often hilarious.4 I’m talking about when kids realize that they can use words to express everything they see or to negotiate to get what they want. Last weekend, for instance, Eitan asked me if he could watch one of his shows on television and, when I said no, he changed his tactic and asked if we could watch football instead. I still said no, but I’ll admit I thought about it for a minute.
5. Everything else
I’m thankful for: my wife, our son, our relatives and our friends. Everyone’s health. My home. My education. Gainful employment. My coworkers. The dad blogger community. Chicago sports, including two Stanley Cups in four years, six NBA titles under His Airness, a Super Bowl appearance in the 2006 season and a promising future for the “Cuuuu-BEES!” I’m thankful for this blog, for the people it’s allowed me to meet and the ability to create something for Eitan to look back on when he’s older. And I’m thankful for you, for reading it.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
1. I’m not saying it was on purpose, I’m just saying a show of force might have been a motivating factor for the tribe members to help out their new neighbors. Also, I’m avoiding using words like “Indians” or “Native Americans” on purpose. I realize it can be a little cumbersome, but it has to do with avoiding the use of imperialist language while respecting a person’s right to identify themselves as they choose, so I’m leaving it out altogether.↩
2. This, by the way, is fairly typical of men’s brains. Watch the video.↩
3. Also, I love Cookie Monster. The contrarian in me always felt drawn to Oscar, but as I’ve actually started listening to more of the characters’ lines, I’ve come to appreciate Cookie Monster’s adult-targeted comments much more.↩
4. When someone I know (who will remain nameless for her mother’s sake more than anything) was little, she saw her mom drop her keys and asked, “Shit, Mommy?” And, when they were in the car and someone cut them off, the young girl yelled from her car seat, “Beep beep, schmuck!” Meanwhile, Trudy and I have reached the point where anytime I mutter the name Jesus, Eitan answers, “Christ!”↩