My parents are coming for Thanksgiving. Gracious guests that they are, they will offer to help with everything: food, drinks, cleaning, baby wrangling, and even paying for stuff. Out of guilt, pressure, and even love, we have let them help in all these ways before. Then we stayed up late undoing their help-fails. Or we snuck fixes while no one was looking.
My parents mean well and we love them. But they are people who suffer from Bad Help Syndrome, who insist on helping by doing stuff their way””the better way, the way we should have been doing it all along, sometimes with a free lesson/lecture on their better way as they are helping us. My parents help by doing stuff we really don’t need, like showing up with three dozen eggs that were on sale, when they were asked to pick up up bread and tomatoes. They help by designating certain pantry items as ”perishable” and whisking them to the fridge without telling us, so that, weeks later when we go to make stir fry, we lose our minds trying to find the soy sauce. They help save us time by offering to cook, then body blocking us in the kitchen to tell them where everything is””or just having us get it for them because we’ll just do it faster. They also help by bringing over stuff that needs to be bagged and taken to Goodwill (after we’ve had first pick!), which is the least we can do in exchange for all their help.
This Thanksgiving, we’ve invited two local friends to join us for dinner. My parents are disappointed that it won’t be just us. They want the holiday for family time, which we understand. But these friends are on their own, and in exchange for a big meal they have also lovingly agreed to help (no, really help) occupy our parents by asking to hear our childhood stories. They have been instructed to learn about and be conversant in new Apple products, Cyber Monday, mah-jongg, and animal rescues in the news before coming to dinner. Thanksgiving night, they will let my parents get them drinks and show them goofy stuff on their phones. These dear, beloved, precious friends will help my parents feel wanted and needed and busy all night long, so that we can get on with the glorious tasks of cooking and serving and cleaning without their help.
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