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How Kids Take the 'Magic' Out of the Holidays

Photograph by Photofest

My 6-year-old daughter began to talk about it weeks in advance.

"Mommy, are you going to make sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving?"

"Of course!"

"Can I help you?"

"Absolutely," I said. "I would love for you to help me." And I meant it.

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I had visions of a Hallmark commercial in my head. Mother and daughter together in the kitchen. Laughing. Telling stories. Making a mess and loving every minute of it.

She had visions of mini-marshmallows going in to her mouth. I knew that, but still I believed the holiday magic would get the better of both of us.

She began a countdown. Every morning she would announce the number of days until she got to help me make the sweet potato casserole. I thought her excitement level was adorable.

The day before Thanksgiving, the first words out of her mouth were, "When do we get to do it? How many minutes?"

The anticipation felt like Christmas or her birthday. I couldn't believe she was THAT enthusiastic about cooking. I had to put her off until the late afternoon. Finally, it was time.

"YAY!" she screamed as she came running into the kitchen. "What do we do?"

"Are you ready? OK. Well, first we need to make sure we have all our ingredients together. Can you read them off for me?"

A few seconds. That's how long the "magic" lasted. As she scanned the ingredients list, her face scrunched up.

"Eggs? There are eggs in the sweet potato casserole?"

"Yep." How else could it get so fluffy?

"I don't like eggs."

"Well, you don't like them by themselves. But eggs are in lots of stuff you like to eat."

"Really? Like what?"

"Cake, for example. Eggs are an ingredient in cake."

"They are?" Then, "OK, well I'll try it."

More reading. More scrunching.

"Cinnamon? I don't like cinnamon."

"There's just a tiny bit in there. You will barely be able to taste it," I said, then quickly, "I think the next ingredient is brown sugar. Have you ever had brown sugar before?"

"No."

"Here, try some."

"Mmmmm."

Our ingredients assembled, it was time to get down to business. I explained the first thing we needed to do was mash the sweet potatoes. More scrunching.

As she began, she commented, "I can't believe I ever ate this stuff."

"When you were a baby, sweet potatoes were one of your favorite things!"

"I bet they didn't look like this."

"No, they had already been mashed."

"This is gross," she said. "Can I go play?"

And, that was it. The whole experience lasted, what, five minutes? Not exactly the making of magical holiday moments either of us had envisioned.

And yet, during Thanksgiving dinner my child proudly announced to everyone she had helped me make the sweet potato casserole. As she ate it, she leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Mommy, you are going to make this again for Christmas, aren't you? Pretty please?"

Of course I will. Most likely all by myself.

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But, in all honesty, I know I'll look back on this holiday memory with a smile for years.

I mean, it wasn't what I had in mind. It wasn't even magical. But you know what? It was real.

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