We’re not American, but this year we (okay, I) decided to celebrate Thanksgiving. It wasn’t a totally random idea – I was born in Canada, which, even though I left there at 4 months old, makes me and both my sons Canadian. (No, I didn’t celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, because I forgot about it. That’s the date we’ll do it next year.) But that wasn’t the real reason, the real reason was because I’ve always loved the idea of a holiday about giving thanks.
It seemed particularly apt at this time of year – pretty much all Harry talks about at the moment is Christmas, or rather what he wants for Christmas. He’s got his own Amazon wishlist, which now stretches to three pages. He constantly asks me if I’ve bought his favourite items even though he’s still pretending to believe it’s not me who actually delivers them. (“If Father Christmas doesn’t bring me a DS again this year, you’ll just have to get it.”) At 3, Joe is much more laid back: when he wrote his list, he asked for “Peppa Pig TV only” but if he’s anything like his brother, the demands will start ramping up year on year.
I find it tiring and irritating. I don’t want to constantly be pointing out how lucky they are to be getting any gifts at all – my parents’ reminders of “children in Africa” never meant anything to me, as a child – but when the housing charity Shelter states that 75,000 children will wake up homeless on Christmas Day, it’s hard not to tell my boys to make do with what they’ve got and donate the money we would otherwise have spent.
At the same time, I want them to feel secure. I don’t want them to have to worry about other children (and they do – they’re much more empathetic than I was at their age). I just, I suppose, want them to know that not all children are as lucky as they are. And not to take what they have for granted. Which is where Thanksgiving comes in.
On the day itself, we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and then they “helped” me make a pumpkin pie. Over dinner, I asked what they were thankful for. Joe said, “The ‘lympics!” which impressed me; it clearly made an impression, even if he did sleep through the victory parade. Harry said he was thankful for the guinea pigs. And that we’re going to Disneyland Paris. Joe said he’s thankful for Mickey Mouse. And then for “Phineas & Ferb! And Pokemon! And piggies!” at which point we realised he was just naming stuff he could see around the room (not the Olympics though – that was a genuine one!). Harry said he is thankful for me, his Dad, Joe. And we’re so thankful for him too. And his brother.
And then they got up and buggered off and left me and David to finish our dinner alone. (No, they’re not supposed to do this, but it had been a long day.) It wasn’t much, I know, but at least they took a few moments to appreciate what they have – what they’ve experienced – before going back to demanding more more MORE.