Teenagers and Thanksgiving

I’ve been spending time thinking about Thanksgiving lately and as I was preparing for my school chapel message today, I decided to talk about one way of giving thanks.

It was a way that my parents wanted me to give thanks that I tried to get out of as I went through my teenage years.

For my family, thanksgiving was always a time for family. We would usually spend it either at our house with my grandparents joining us or we would go to my grandparents’ house for dinner. That was the norm – at least that’s the way I remember it being (maybe my mom or dad or both can refresh my memory). Christmas was the same.

But as I entered those “wonderful” teenage years, I began to rebel against this norm and tradition. Not the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, mind you, but the part about spending the day with family.

By the time the pie was a pleasant memory, I would want to call my friends and go out to the movies. There was usually a blockbuster or two that had opened by that weekend. Or we would go to the the arcade (I realize that in today’s age of computer games and consoles, an “arcade” seems so, well, archaic). Or, if we were lucky to have a white and cold Thanksgiving, we would go to Holiday Park, the local ski hill, and schuss the slopes.

In other words, I would do almost anything if it meant getting out of the house and being with my friends.

It occurs to me that this is a pretty unthankful attitude. I’d scarf down the food and get out of the house as quickly as possible. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my family – I did and still do. I guess it was that teenage “thing” of wanting to live my life my way, on my terms and on my time.

That’s a pretty selfish attitude and selfishness, it seems to me, is the opposite of being thankful.

Now that I’m the parent of a teenager, I’m beginning to realize that this might have hurt my parents’ feelings. Actually, I find myself repenting of a lot of things that I did as a teenager now that I’m a parent of a teenager!

Now, in my forties, I’m more conscious of just how special time with family is. And that’s what I encouraged the school family with today.

I encouraged them to give thanks to God for the time they get to spend with their families at this time of year. I understand that they won’t understand just how special it is until they are older. I also understand that many of them won’t hear me – especially the teenagers.

But I feel compelled to at least try to reach them with this important information! I’m beginning to really understand that this is part of my calling.

I’m certainly telling my own three sons about this. My wife and I have established Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas traditions that I pray they will take with them into their adulthood. And these traditions all involve family – at the very least the five of us, but most of the time with the grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins.

Spending time with friends is important. I don’t think it is anathema. But “family time” is limited. Parents feel this so deeply. Children are only that age once and not for very long. Older kids, left to themselves, won’t normally choose to spend time with parents, so it’s up to us to make that choice for them.

When they are adults, most of them will thank us for it. I know I do. Thanks, mom and dad! Happy Thanksgiving!

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