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Learning to be flexible may be best holiday gift you ever give
The lists are made; the fresh turkey ordered; we’ve watched 23 episodes of how to bake the moistest turkey ever while making it look like a “Martha Masterpiece;” we’ve tried four different yam recipes, hoping to make people actually eat them this year; and the boxed stuffing is purchased and put in a different package so everyone thinks we’re using the treasured family recipe (when really we quit using that when our second child was born, 14 years ago).
Thanksgiving is on its way, loaded with expectations of traditions kept, and perfect and peaceful family dinners. I’m the worst of the traditionalists. I like everything to be the same every year.

When Nov. 1 rolls around, I have visions of a beautifully decorated home and sitting down in the living room with my family, discussing how we will give each day in November to teach them the real meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Reality hits at about Nov. 16, when I realize I haven’t had that conversation with my kids and I’m lucky to remember to give to the bell-ringing Salvation Army guy on the way out of the store.

But this year, I’m trying to take a different approach. When my mom called and gave me some options for making Thanksgiving easier for all of us, I silently balked at the notion of not having the exact same Thanksgiving dinner we always prepare. It took me the whole conversation to finally say, “Whatever you and Dad decide, I’ll go with.”

And as soon as I said it, I felt relieved. I still don’t know how we will handle it but whatever it is, I’ve made the decision to be flexible and Thanksgiving will come and go and be great. And as a bonus, I’m realizing flexible is fun!

So I’m wondering if I’m the only rigid traditionalist with loads of expectations mounted on my back. I highly doubt it. As we head into the Christmas holiday, besides those people who had all their Christmas cards done and presents wrapped by Halloween, I think the rest of us slackers should concentrate on being flexible.
Maybe we don’t need to harass our family members into helping us decorate the entire farm with lights, wreaths and roping. Maybe we don’t need to bake every Christmas goodie recipe from Pioneer Woman, Martha Stewart and Paula Deen.

Maybe we don’t need to take on coordinating Christmas caroling for the church choir or making 19 angel costumes for the children’s play. Maybe we don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on our children in two days because we feel like we didn’t get what they really wanted.

Maybe what we really need to do is remain flexible. If time runs out, so be it. If there’s not enough money to get what everyone wants, so be it. If the matching tablecloth and napkins don’t get starched before Christmas dinner … well, let’s not go overboard with this flexible thing.

Decide right now what traditions will be kept and what can go. Decide right now to relax and enjoy the company of your family. Decide right now that the baby in that manger is more important than any expectation you’ve piled on your back. And maybe, just maybe, Christmas will mean a little bit more.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.