November is a beautiful month. A month of gratitude, where we focus on family, togetherness, and giving thanks. And parents celebrating their baby’s first Thanksgiving have a lot to be thankful for!
Whether you’re still breathing in that newborn smell and marveling at the “newborn scrunch,” or if you’re soaking-up baby laughs and encouraging your little one’s first steps, that first year of life is filled with precious memories and milestones. First-time parents and veteran parents alike, most of us can’t help but cling to the hope and unblemished perfection of new life that comes with a baby. We want everything to be perfect — and the polished world of social media provides endless fuel for those expectations.
It can be disheartening then, when we’re planning Baby’s first taste of sweet potato casserole to find the store sold-out of sweet potatoes completely. Or when we plan the perfect “my first thanksgiving outfit” but Baby has a blow-out right before the photoshoot. What we imagined to be a blissful weekend of Pinterest-worthy moments turns into a stressful weekend of … well … real life.
So what are some ways we can realistically enjoy Thanksgiving with a baby?
Put Health First
If recent years have taught us anything, it’s how precious our health can be. Also, nearly everything can be postponed or adjusted to accommodate the protection of that health. This is especially true for babies. Their immune systems are still developing and little colds for us could mean big consequences for them. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving falls right in the heart of cold and flu season. Don’t be afraid to cancel plans with the family if Auntie Matilda comes down with the sniffles, or Grandpa can’t kick that nagging cough. We may want to take advantage of a long weekend to spend time with friends and extended family but it’s not worth it if you are stuck home sick the following week, or worse, stuck in the hospital with Baby battling RSV.
If everyone seems healthy and you do want to get together, you may want to keep this year’s guest list short. Make an effort to ensure everyone washes their hands before holding Baby, and remind loved ones that absolutely no one kisses Baby on their face or hands.
Back-ups for The Back-ups
Do you have your heart set on a picture-perfect color scheme for your family’s wardrobe? Plan for messes and expect to have an alternative outfit (or two) ready to go for everyone. Spit-up, diaper leaks, food spills, and who knows what else are par for the course on an exciting day, so be prepared to roll with the punches.
If you’re dreaming of a picture of Baby digging into their first pumpkin pie, be sure to have an extra on hand in the event Cousin Henry gets there first. Or an extra set of ingredients, if you’re making it from scratch — just in case no one hears the sound of the oven going off over the game and you have to toss the first one out after it burns.
For anything that is really important to you, expect the unexpected. Then, accept that you can’t possibly prepare for every scenario and make peace with the possibility that it might not happen just the way you planned; and that’s ok! Get all your “must have” moments out of the way first so you can kick back and enjoy the rest of the holiday worry-free of your checklist.
Keep Dinner Simple
This may not be the year to tackle your first turkey, or master your great-grandmother’s stuffing recipe. Maximize memory-making opportunities by minimizing your time isolated in the kitchen, and opt for simpler or ready-made food options instead.
Alternatively, if cooking and baking are your thing, you may want to take advantage of extra hands willing to hold and entertain Baby so you can focus on putting together your dream meal. Just don’t overdo it — the idea is to stress less and enjoy more!
Ask for (And Accept) Help
The art of asking for and accepting help is one few of us have truly mastered. Babies are great reminders of all the things in life we can’t control, which can be incredibly frustrating. Before you find yourself overcompensating by micro-managing all the holiday details, consider whether or not you really need to personally take care of each and every task. Someone else may be just as capable, and happy to help!
No matter how stellar you are as a parent, you cannot do it all. Don’t be afraid to delegate things like setting the table, taking photos, and even preparing the meal. You can take on some more responsibility another year when you aren’t balancing a brand new human being.
Be Grateful for the Imperfect Moments
Being grateful doesn’t mean you have to be happy about everything.
When we think about things we are grateful for, we tend to focus strictly only on the positive. However, life is a mixed-bag and not everything is rainbows and sunshine. If it were, we might not recognize the good things we have because we’d take them for granted. Babies are precious examples of how difficult things can be good. It isn’t easy to be up at 3am, feeding a baby, hosing down a car seat after a spill, or balancing a baby in one arm while trying to do everything else with the other. But that doesn’t make your baby any less of a gift, or mean you love them any less.
This Thanksgiving you may not “enjoy every minute,” but whatever happens, there will be plenty of moments to be thankful for — like a 45-minute car ride where Baby didn’t end up screaming after all.