Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What I'm Thankful For...

In a couple of days we will celebrate one of the most  basic of American holidays that often gets overshadowed by the great homage to Black Friday and the holiday shopping season—Thanksgiving.  This year is going to be a little different in our house since this will be the first year we are not spending the actual day with anyone but our immediate family.  This was not really a “choice” per se; it was more of a compromise.  My family just doesn’t get it and I am tired of trying to make it work. 

Actually, this all started under the guise of them not wanting me to bring our dog to my sister’s model home.  In actuality, the decision also had a lot to do with my youngest son whether they will be honest or not.  Last year, my sister got very upset at my son for dislodging a button from an overstuffed giant ottoman straight from some magazine picture somewhere.  She had been stressed all day and he got to bear the brunt of it for being himself in a house that is more a showroom than a home.  There are too many glass and fragile “don’t touch that” pieces d’art for him to resist. 

However, it is better to blame the dog who jumped up on her other stylish piece of furniture in his effort to greet everyone.  He was a shelter dog we had adopted a month before last Thanksgiving.  He really had never known a home is the estimate of the shelter workers.  Oh yes, and he is a candidate for canine ADHD.  Actually, that is real and some breeds, like him, are especially prone.  They think that is why he ended up at the shelter.  (Go figure, my dog has needs too!)

So, he we are with my family of four planning on spending the actual day of Thanksgiving together…just us…and the hyper dog and two cats as well.  In years past, that would have upset me to no end.  This year, not so much.  Why?  I think I have finally been able to embrace a quote I read years and years ago.  I looked it up on the internet just to make sure I could give credit where credit is due.  I could remember the words, not the person who quoted them.  So, Ring Lardner is responsible, at least partially, for me accepting this turn of events.  His quote?  “The family you come from isn’t as important as the family you’re going to have.”  Quite fitting for our circumstances.  Besides, this way I get to make sure there are actual vegetables and things I enjoy instead of a lot of  starch at the table.  And my children will be able to celebrate as they see fit without the critique on my parenting skills for letting my oldest eat chicken nuggets and the youngest to eat anything as long as he eats.  Who cares if Thanksgiving doesn’t mean turkey as long as we are together?  Right?  I’m thankful that I can say that this year.

Sure, it does bother me a bit that my kids won’t have the traditional family gathering that day.  However, there are many people who aren’t with family on Thanksgiving for one reason or another.  We aren’t the only ones.  My oldest knows the real reason I believe; that’s unfortunate.  The youngest appears blissfully ignorant of the ramifications.  Still, he knows that he is all but ignored in comparison to his younger cousin who everyone else views as perfect.  My kids?  Not so much.

Oh, family will make an appearance at my house the day after.  How fortunate for us.  It gives a whole new meaner to “Black Friday.”  That way my parents and sister will be able to bestow on my children the grace of their presence for a time.  Of course, it will still be another gathering where they really don’t get my kids.  At least I will be able to let my children maintain a routine and have escape options for them when it gets to be too much.  They will be on their home turf, and for that I’m grateful.

I’m also grateful for the people in my life who do understand and know why this is such a bittersweet thing occurring.  I’m thankful for those people who have let me vent about this—much like you are by reading this—so I can get the cornucopia of emotions out.  I’m thankful that this “compromise” means my kids can still be themselves.

I’m thankful for a lot of other things this holiday.  I’m thankful for the parents who came before us and fought for the rights of kids with special needs.  I’m thankful for the parents who faced educators, lawyers, government entities, doctors, established institutions and refused to back down.  I’m glad that they changed laws and perceptions, standards and expectations.  To them, my gratitude is sincere and profound.  I’m thankful for those of us who keep fighting for our kids regardless of the location or reason.  I’m thankful for the people who fought and died for us to have that freedom in our country.  I’m thankful for the people who taught me how to channel my roar into an articulate case and how to effectively advocate for my children, and others.  I’m thankful that I have come to understand, appreciate, and embody Ring Lardner’s quote in my own way.  I’m thankful to know that I’m not alone in this issue and that typing away at my keyboard is one more way to gain strength.

I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving…however you choose to observe it.  I’m thankful I have found a way to spend mine with less stress and more focus on why I need to appreciate what I have, not what others think I should.  

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