Before my wife and I had children, I just didn’t get it. I mean, yeah, I like to watch It’s A Wonderful Life and go Christmas caroling as much as the next guy, but why does every holiday have to be so structured? Why can’t we have spaghetti and meatballs for Thanksgiving one year and have tamales and guacamole for the next? I’ve never been a big fan of routine, and I tended to associate tradition with routine. Then we had Micah, and I came to realize that traditions serve as landmarks in the mind of a child.
At (almost) five years old, my son associates certain things with the celebration of thankfulness. Turkey, stuffing, (my absolutely outstanding, whipped) sweet potatoes, and sparkling apple cider are a part of that, but more important than food is the activity surrounding a holiday.
At the beginning of the month of November, we hang up a tree that Lorinda sewed for the kids. It’s pretty bare and scraggly looking. There are no leaves, just bare branches. As the month progresses, though, Micah (who has enough words to meet the task, our one year old isn’t quite there yet) shares one thing he’s thankful for. We write it on a fall colored leaf and add it to the tree.
Some of the things he includes are silly (play dough), some are thoughtful (being healthy), and some are just precious (my sister). What’s most exciting to me is seeing the progression from last year.
When we put something on the thankful tree, we talk about it. We compare why we are thankful for it compared to some of the other things on our tree. There are fewer toys included this year and far more people. I’d like to think that means he’s getting it.
Tomorrow, when we sit down around the table to share in a delicious meal, we’ll talk about the most important things to be thankful for. Yes, we’ll offer thanks for the food and talking about the fun things we did this year, but I hope to take a moment to remind my children of the greatest gifts that we are given. The gifts of our savior.
Next year, my daughter will be old enough (almost three) to be sharing more and more about the things she’s thankful for. I expect some pretty silly things to be on there. If I asked this year, ponies and Elmo would probably take center stage. I hope that in a few years our Church family and Jesus will take a more prominent place. For now, I’m content with my children recognizing blessings at all.
When the tree gets hung up, it doesn’t tell my children that now is the only time we are thankful, it tells them that, like the tree with no leaves, our lives without the gifts we’ve been given would be plane, dull, and lifeless.
What things would you put on your thankful tree?