A couple of years ago, my daughters watched a Daniel Tiger episode about feeling two emotions at the same time. As always, Daniel sings a catchy song about what he learns and, for weeks, I heard my kids singing, “Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time…and that’s okay!”
I’m a little self conscious as I admit that song came to mind as my family of six finished our Thanksgiving dinner this year. For our family, the actual meal went pretty well. One daughter tried a new food, our two-year-old sat for all of dinner, and we had delightful conversation. Each of us shared one person, place, and thing we’re grateful for this year and my daughters’ answers ranged between thoughtful, funny, and serious, and I loved every second of it. For the record, this is pretty much the pinnacle of mealtime behavior for my family.
As everyone finished and drifted away from the table, I felt thankful…and disappointed.
Almost immediately, I felt guilty for the disappointment. How could I be dismayed when there’s so much to be thankful for, including a semi-normal meal with four kids ages 9 and under? My family is healthy, my husband and I have fulfilling jobs we love, and our kids are thriving and growing at school. We had the time and the resources to eat a meal together while watching the sun set and sharing conversation.
It only seemed right to focus on the positives and shove any negative feelings down deep where I didn’t need to acknowledge them since I know many other people dealing with far worse disappoint and despair.
But it also felt dishonest to ignore the lingering disappointment. If I ignored it, then I felt like I was dismissing everything our Thanksgiving gatherings usually held; the delicious overindulgence, savored conversations with family members I don’t get to see often enough, and no expectations of giving the perfect present like at Christmas. It’s one of my very favorite days of the year and one that’s steeped with traditions in my large extended family.
With Daniel Tiger’s encouragement playing in my head, I stayed at the table and lamented for a while.
I was grateful and also disappointed. Encouraged and also discontent. Thankful and also dissatisfied.
I stayed and acknowledged the “and”. There was something genuine about acknowledging the honest complicated feelings of this holiday season.
Then I cleared the table, ate an extra cookie, and created Lego houses with my kids until bedtime.
I don’t know exactly what Christmas will look like this year, but I know it will feel different than usual. My husband and I are trying to navigate the month right now and there are no neighbor dinners on the calendar, no pictures with Santa at North Park, no trip to the Nutcracker with my daughters, and no movie and hot chocolate nights with friends planned. There will not be a big family Christmas complete with boisterous laughter and the hum of constant adult conversation while kids run up and down the stairs to play with new toys.
But we will still have great quality time together as a family of six. We’ll look at Christmas lights, watch Christmas movies, make a huge mess baking Christmas cookies, we’ll laugh together, and we’ll make lasting memories.
It will be wonderful and disappointing.
And that’s okay because, according to Daniel Tiger, there’s space for both.