15
Nov
2012
0

Guineafowl is to Turkey as Family Traditions is to Resilience

Thanksgiving sprouts

What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? Why are these memories important? Are celebrations like Thanksgiving good for us?

I am often asked “How can we identify risk factors for our children so potential problems are minimized?”

My Top Three:

  1. Family is the key!
  2. Knowing your ‘emotions’ is essential.
  3. Family memories and family traditions build strong kids.

Do emotions help us make more ethical decisions?

I believe they do. If the child cannot understand their own emotions or tune into the emotions of others in their family or with peers, this is a huge risk. If the child is unable to make ethical decisions, they are a risk to themselves and a risk to society.

If the child does not have a sense of “family”  this is a huge risk. The impact of a strong family identity and the connectedness factor is often long lasting, giving messages to the child that they are loved and accepted and belong to a wider network of people who matter.

It is my perception that no child is immune from pressure in our current, fast paced, stressed filled environment so families have to be aware that at anytime in their life a child might need help and support. They need to cope better with everyday challenges and be able to bounce back from disappointments. The concept of resilience is straightforward if you think about kids needing to thrive emotionally, behaviorally, academically and interpersonally. Families need to use Thanksgiving as a time to connect.

This is one of our favorite Thanksgiving memories.

I can handle the first insult (according to my culture) but the second one puts me over my comfort zone.

It is Thanksgiving . . .

And we invited the guests . . .

And it was early in the evening . . .

But remember – First, you move me 1,500 miles away from where I call home.

Second, you invite a whole table full of your co-workers.

Third, this sets up the magic to make this a Thanksgiving that is memorable.

At first, when my husband suggested that we invite his co-workers from China who have never had a traditional American Thanksgiving to our home, I was eager. I had visions of everyone sitting around smiling and enjoying the feast I had carefully constructed.

I was up early, the house smelled wonderful with the mixture of butter, onions and sage and a host of other things ready to be stuffed in the turkey. Then I tackled the homemade pies. Growing up in Kansas and spending hour after hour in my grandma’s kitchen, I can make a “mean apple pie” and the ‘absolutely must have’ pumpkin pie. I stirred, stuffed and muffed around the kitchen all day.

At 5:00 pm our guests were expected to arrive. At 4:45 pm everyone arrived right on cue but early! This should have been my first hint that this might not be a typical Thanksgiving dinner.

For you see my new husband was the boss!

Yes, I had forgotten to factor in that perhaps our guests that I thought were so eager to come to Thanksgiving was in fact doing a “work obligation” on their day off.

At the start of the event, everyone just mingled around and I started to relax. We exchanged names and polite words while my husband was eagerly getting everyone a drink. Then our first cultural mishap occurred.

The Chinese spokesman cleared his throat and said, “Mr. Simens, Thank you so much for having all of us here to celebrate with you and your fat wife.”

My husband looked awkwardly at me but his “deer in the headlight look” told me he really was apprehensive of my reaction, wanted to wait, and intervene if he needed to.

As you know, I am well aware of cultural nuances so I tipped my head and smiled. Pardon the pun, but I knew I was a big enough person to take this comment as a praise in China – a compliment and not an American putdown.

As we all settled down to the large dining room table, they asked me to explain each dish and tell them a little about them. This was more like the event I had in my mind, as a teacher sharing the joys and education of Thanksgiving.

Once a teacher always a teacher…

I talked about the importance of corn bread, from the American natives “Indians” such as the Cherokee or the Chickasaw and the original recipes they had for these corn dishes. I explained how cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs that produce vines up to 2 meters or (7 ft) long. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. Then I explained why we have both sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. I saved the best for last – the huge turkey. Then the observation that made the first “fat” remark seem tame happened.

“Mr Simens, Wow, your turkey is as fat as your wife.”

“Let’s eat”, my husband said, trying to avoid any more discomfort.

Then the ‘Second in Command’ felt my husband just didn’t get the compliment so he said, “Mr. Simens, We mean you are a very lucky man, you have a really big turkey and a really big wife.”

“Bon Appetite!” my husband tried again as he laid his hand carefully across my leg and patted my thigh. He was stroking my leg. Was he trying to comfort me or was he just getting into position to restrain me if I decided to lunge across the table at the company representative? Was he checking to see where the knife was?

I was only able to relax and start to enjoy the meal when I noticed everyone was eating. I hoped no one would talk with their mouth full of food (another American issue). I also wondered if there would be any burping. I then gave an inaudible Thanksgiving prayer – “Please don’t let anyone mention the word fat again this holiday season.”

Then I silently wondered what this group of people might be doing for Christmas. What might they say about a huge Christmas Ham?

I hope you and your family are creating Thanksgiving memories and better yet . . . telling stories of Thanksgiving past so you can build up your child’s family emotion stories. Please share one Thanksgiving Memory!

Notes: The Guineafowl made its way to Europe from Africa via Turkey, therefore they called it ‘turkey.’

Sprouts by madmoo

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1 Response

  1. Thanks for the laugh…Yes I do remember my Mom making a Thanksgiving Dinner at my college apartment with only an oven, one pot and a “fry baby”. My peers had no problem bringing their own plates and forks!