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10 Low-stress discussion topics for your big family this Thanksgiving

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Bring up your latest Pinterest fail, or better yet, play football. Who can argue about politics when you’re busy pulling a hamstring?

It’s about that time again. Drag out the elastic waistbands and reserve a naptime spot on the couch, because turkey day is right around the corner. (I save my maternity pants for just this reason. Not pregnant this year? Fill out those spandex panels with pumpkin roll!) A day of gravy boats, pie, and poorly organized family-football games is a welcome 24-hour reprieve for the weary from the politics, celebrity drama, and world events that fill your every-other-day. But the fact remains that most of us have families with differing viewpoints, so what are some relaxing things we can chat about with the people we love most in the world? Today I’m taking time out from dreaming about unlimited pumpkin pie to offer a few suggestions.

1. Babies

One demographic who pays absolutely no attention to politics or world events is the baby set. I know this because, while we were watching the news, our baby learned to walk. Using this newfound ability, our miniature lady spent every minute falling over sideways, eating coffee grounds out of the trashcan, and gifting additional heart attacks by base jumping from the top of the stairs.

Catholic family gatherings are full of babies, so they make an excellent, happy topic of conversation. Even if you want to talk about politics, there’s a good chance you end up talking about your baby, telling your baby to stop licking the dog, or agreeing with the family member next to you there’s a good chance your cousin’s baby threw the gravy ladle in the trash.

2. Pets

Sharing stories about trips to the dog park or shoving the family dachshund into a sweater for the family picture this year is a solid plan. Catholic family members may not see eye-to-eye on the best way to run our country, but a potential in-depth discussion about the disastrous effects of switching dog food brands too quickly, and the resulting, horrific gas is something everyone can rally around. Our Labrador just switched to Purina and can clear a room in a blink of an eye. Sweet St. Francis, help us all.

3. Home improvement

This year, I’ll be starting every conversation with, “I started painting my kitchen cabinets three months ago, and I’m still not done. Haha… no, it’s not frustrating at all. What do you mean I’m stabbing my dinner roll?”

Now is a great time to pull out ill-fated stories of laying your own flooring, de-clogging toilets, and installing an under-mounted sink when your spouse told you not to, because a degree in English does not a plumber make. Catholics have an easier time chatting about home improvement, rather than politics, because everyone can agree that having kids run around, while installing baseboards, is a great way to take time off purgatory.

4. Hobbies

A safe topic, one’s hobbies can be a great Catholic family conversation starter. Be sure to use caution though. While non-confrontational, going on too long about your interest in underwater basket weaving or building self-sustaining homes for your pet rocks may have the unintended side effect of boring another person’s face off.

5. Diet and exercise

Now is a wonderful time to let everyone know how you prepped for Thanksgiving over-eating. Unless you’re St. Thomas Aquinas, who doesn’t want to gab about a good system cleanse? Bran, quinoa, free-range oranges, go ahead and throw it all out there.

“That’s right, Janis. It was an all-ginger-tea, all-the-time type of thing. I’ve never felt more regular. Could you pass the green bean casserole? I’ll burn it off with my Tae Bo VHS, later.”

This is also a great opportunity to demonstrate everything you’ve learned in your stretch class but haven’t mastered, promising to leave the family in stunned, awkward silence. A dolphin pose next to the drink table is both majestic and unsettling.

6. Gift-giving

If you’re anything like me, you haven’t begun shopping, budgeting, or thinking about buying presents. Making those lists and checking them twice makes me break out in a cold, festive sweat. Disorganization and procrastination love company. Gather the family around and suggest that maybe this year, just maybe, they’d like to volunteer to run all your holiday errands for you. Feel out how many family members are okay with socks from Amazon.

While you don’t want to talk about politics, you can take this time to vote on the group gift for mom and dad. Paying NASA to name a star after them last year didn’t go over too well. They sacrificed their youth for you, go ahead and spring for the new Keurig.

7. Confusing homework

My kids are young, which means I’m just now getting an introduction to the joy that is helping them with math at night. You have no idea what the pictures of the dominoes mean.

And neither do you.

Or you.

Unlike politics, 99 percent of Catholics agree they have no idea what time the two trains will meet if one leaves from station A at 11 a.m. and station B at midnight. Especially if one of them is transporting two dozen eggs. Chatting about confusing homework is a fun way to bond over the fact that algebra still gives most of you hives and is a great way to dodge current events.

8. The main course

Why do you keep letting Uncle Dan cook the turkey every year? You all agree it tastes like a leather jacket covered in gravy. Commiserate together and draw straws to see who the lucky one will be to tell him dinner’s coming from Boston Market next year. You can’t agree on the details of the election season, but you can all agree this is a Corporal Work of Mercy. No one can feed the hungry with a bird made out of sandpaper.

9. Football

Thanksgiving is the designated day for enjoying delicious turkey, but it’s also national, “Gather the family for a rag-tag game of football and hope no one pulls a hamstring day.” Growing up, I watched my dad participate in the family “Turkey Bowl” every year. It was a great way to bring all 12 of his brothers and sisters together, and an even better way to pull the same muscle in his neck for a decade straight. If you’re an American Catholic family, football is something you all agree on. You may not love the same teams, but you love the game. Head to the backyard, pick teams, and turn the swing set into a goal post. Who can argue about politics when they’re running for the end zone?

10. When in doubt …

Eat dessert! It’s almost impossible to have a coherent conversation about politics while inhaling heaps of pumpkin, cherry, and apple goodness. Ever seen an angry person eating a cream cheese pumpkin roll?

Exactly. Angry people eat mince meat.

So remember, this Thanksgiving, be the first person in the family to spread some love, lots of hugs, and huge slices of pie.

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