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Thanksgiving is that time of year. It’s when those of us with perfectionist tendencies wrestle with ourselves about how much to do (and not do) in our quest for the perfect holiday. I typically find myself selecting recipes in search of a bountiful Thanksgiving feast, rushing around to buy ingredients, and spending the day in the kitchen cooking the meal by myself. When we eventually sit down at the table, my exhaustion overwhelms the atmosphere of conviviality I was hoping for. Not exactly the “perfect” Thanksgiving I originally had in mind!

Last year, my husband came up with a new idea: buy a pre-cooked turkey from the grocery store and have each family member make their favorite side dish – whatever they wanted to make. (We have two teen boys.) And that would be dinner – no menu planning, no big feast, no coordination. Ten years ago, I would have discarded this idea without a second thought. But last year, I thought, what the heck, let’s do it.

The result? A hodge-podge of (and fewer) dishes. But also, a day where the kids, my husband and I were all engaged together in the kitchen, with time to relax, play board games, and just hang out. The kids were in a good mood all day, we had a good laugh at our mish-mash of dishes and….it was fun. 

So what is the definition of a ‘perfect’ holiday? Does it come from Martha Stewart, or is there more to it than that? PEP has certainly helped me to understand how important and rewarding it is to share decision-making and activity-planning with the whole family, and that ‘building relationship’ takes priority over, say, picture perfect table settings. 

I can’t claim to be a complete convert (this Thanksgiving I’ll be making 2 dishes instead of 1!), but I’m not aiming for a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving either. And it’s not because I’m no longer a perfectionist, but rather my focus has shifted beyond the perfect meal.