Thanksgiving: 5 tough parenting questions asked and answered

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year old daughter Viva, who is so inquisitive she can probably turn Arbor day into an epistemological quandary.

I thought Thanksgiving was supposed to be the easy holiday for talking to your kids. Easter and Christmas raise thorny theological questions and Christmas brings up a world of questions about materialism and priorities. Halloween brings up stranger danger as you avoid razor apples and Demodogs. Patriotic holidays raise questions of national identity and constitutional rights. Thanksgiving was supposed to be about graciousness and poultry.

Turns out there are no easy holidays for talking to your kids.

Yesterday I visited Windy City LIVE to demonstrate some Thanksgiving cooking hacks. (Check out my segment at the link!) In preparation, I stuffed a turkey with my intellectually curious Kindergartener, Viva. Here are some of the questions that came up, my thought process and my answers to her.

Q: Thanksgiving? Who are we thanking?

If you’re religious, this is an easy three letter answer. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, and all that. If you’re more secularly minded, it becomes more complicated. I have no doubt in my heathen mind that living in a state of thankfulness is important to a happy and deliberately lead life. If we want to appreciate the wonders of the world, regardless of their origin or purpose, and treat others and the earth around us with respect and care, we need to be happy about all the “blessings” around us. The answer transcends the question: We need to be thankful for our fingers and toes, our loved ones, the sunrise and the rainfall, for planetary motion and wave/particle duality, for the seasons, and art, and Netflix and the unique position of being conscious to observe all of it. But to whom do we offer this thanks?

A: Mommy. She works hard.

Q: Where is the turkey’s spirit?

Damn it. See, this is why people are vegetarians — not for ethics sake, but so they don’t have to contend with ethical dilemmas in front of our kids. If we maintain a cosmology in which turkeys have souls, then we can say that they live on after we kill them for protein. And the turkeys are gobbling happily in a meadow on the clouds. Didn’t a recent Papal Encyclical say pets have souls? Great for Lassie, but does it apply to Tom Turkey? But if the turkeys are ensouled beings, should we be whacking their heads off and putting cornbread in their butts? If they have souls, do they have our manner of consciousness — you know — hopes and dreams? Are we rubbing sage and garlic on a bird’s hopes and dreams?

A: Turkey heaven.

Q: Can I wear my Indian headdress from art class to dinner?

Professor Foster and I frequently have dinner in a college campus dining hall. Viva brought home a feathered headdress she made in history class. (Are we still doing this? And did she say, “Indian?” Are we saying Indian again? Is Pluto a planet again?) While a Kindergartener in a construction paper headdress can’t possibly the same as a frat bro headed to a Halloween kegger dressed as Chief Redface, is this a loving homage to a culture and an arts integrated way to teach anthropology (I think it is?), or some kind of racial appropriation that’s going to get her shouted down as a hate criminal? 

A: It’s cold out. Wear a knit cap.

Q: What happened to the Indians? 

REALLY? You’re asking this now? Well, the Pilgrims were religious fanatics driven out of England because, yikes — they came here and almost died because they were bad at staying alive, the Natives helped them live by teaching them survival skills, they had dinner together and then from that moment through, well, still, we’ve killed the Natives and taken their stuff. Jeez, if I tell you this now you’re going to be giving away your Oscars like Brando by the end of the week. You don’t like your Corduroy the Bear book because he gets put in a dryer; Staring in the face of the history of genocide is going to be like looking right at the eclipse.

A: They live farther west now.

Q: Can you just hold the turkey open and I’ll throw the onions and oranges in?

That is no way to stuff a bird. We want to get them all the way up to the top of the body cavity and we want all the aromatics bruised because then they’ll release more fragrant oils. On the other hand. if you touch this carcass you’re going to get salmonella all over the house and also throwing oranges into a turkey from across the room sounds awesome.

A: Sure.

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