The Year My 11-Year-Old Cooked Thanksgiving
What's your favorite holiday memory? For me, it's the year when I woke up and told my then 11 year-old son that he was in charge of Thanksgiving.
"I know you are only 11, but I think it's time," I said.
He stared up from his covers sleepily and with a blank look on his face. "I can't tell if you are serious or if you've lost your mind," he said.
Before you think this is a sweet memory, let's just say it was born out of a moment when I was done. I was homeschooling and tutoring a pack of 8th graders at the time. On top of that, I was caring for an elderly parent, while trying to be a supportive wife, and not doing any of it well. Let's just say this was more of a "Hell's Kitchen" situation versus Mary Poppins' moment.
When my son started giving me attitude, my homeschooling smarts kicked in to share a bit of a history lesson. I told him about Clara Barton, who at age 14 nursed her father's hired man back to health from smallpox. She then went on to care for her entire village during the outbreak. At 17, she was a schoolteacher for 40 children, some the same age. You know her name probably as the founder of the Red Cross.
Then I shared the example of David Farragut. David was 12 years old when during the War of 1812, he was given the assignment to bring a ship captured by the USS Essex safely to port. In truth, I wasn't asking my son to heal the sick or captain a ship or anything. But to cook a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner for 8, why not?
That year, he did end up cooking the entire Thanksgiving dinner with me by his side. I laid out the ingredients and assisted him with the chopping, stirring, and assembly. He even spatchcocked the turkey, which meant smashing the turkey flat - his absolute favorite part and a story he still loves to tell to this day at age 20.
I learned a lot that year. Not only that 11 year-olds can absolutely make Thanksgiving dinner. But also that my son was far more capable than I had ever given him credit. There is a famous quote by Goethe which says, "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being." That wisdom works for our kids, but it also works for people that try our patience, and even the family we love the most.
In that season, I was trying to be all things to all people and not good at asking for help. Luckily, my son was game for my Gordon Ramsay moment and spunky enough to cook the entire Thanksgiving dinner. Don't wait for Hell's Kitchen to ignite first. Ask for help when you need it. Invite others in to share the load.
No one wants a Thanksgiving martyr -- unless it's the turkey on the platter.