I don't think I'm alone in saying that, as a parent, I struggle with living in the moment. Usually I'm thinking into the future, running through the never shrinking to-do list, thinking about the next meal, the next load of laundry, and the next impending deadline.
So this weekend, when my son and I were cooking in the kitchen (one of his favorite things to do together), I had one of those rare moments that helped ground me to the present. I thought, for the first time ever in his seven and a half years of life, that this was something that my son was always going to remember. Maybe not this exact day or this exact meal but the act of being together in the kitchen, laughing when he spilled the baking soda all over the floor, showing him how to peel the sweet potatoes which he loves to mash, etc.. These are wonderful moments that my son will always have with him.
There are plenty of times when he suggests that we cook something together and all I can think about is the time it will take, the mess that will have to be cleaned, and the other things I could be doing instead. But this moment helped me see our cooking together as something totally different. It is truly a gift for both of us. I have given him the confidence to read and follow a recipe, and he now enjoys the hunt for the next recipe he wants to try. We make shopping lists together and think about using substitutes to make something healthier, seasonal, or if we are missing an ingredient. He understands that food takes a long time to prepare; it is so rarely something that comes from a box or a drive-thru. I truly believe that these are crucial life skills that are going to help him develop a wonderful relationship with food; one that will fill him with healthy and delicious meals. This is what I am so very thankful for this year.
Although I usually spend weeks searching for new recipes to try for Thanksgiving and completely wear myself out with prepping and cooking, my plan this year is to just keep things simple. I want to make a few things that the kids can help with and have more time to relax and enjoy our time together. Each year we have a "fitnetizer," a pre-meal physical activity such as baseball or soccer in our yard. I'm usually too busy cooking to participate but this year I am determined to join in.
This year Thanksgiving is not going to be about the food. I want to focus on creating more fun, healthy, and giving moments. Those are the ones they will remember.
Ideas for a Fun-Focused, Not Food-Focused Thanksgiving
1) Invite friends and family over for active games in the yard before or after your meal.
2) Take the family to participate in a community race like a Turkey Trot.
3) Look for a new physical activity to try each day during the long weekend such as hiking, biking, rock climbing, or just walk through a different park each day.
4) Do you really need to wait in long lines on Black Friday? Spend that time doing active things with your family and do your shopping online after the kids are asleep.
5) Don’t forget that the holiday is about being thankful for what you have. Spend time talking with children about those in need and let them help choose a way to give to others (i.e. donate food, volunteer in a soup kitchen, collect old toys and coats from closets and neighbors to donate, etc.).
More tips from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation on how to give thanks this year.