Hindsight Parenting: Lessons in Gratitude
The Attitude of Gratitude
I have seen lots and lots of “November is a month for Giving Thanks” on Facebook lately. Heck, I was doing the same thing LAST November. For me, doing that; posting something that you are grateful for even on the worst of days where there seemed to be slim pickin’s in the happy department was a fruitful and enlightening exercise for me. On those seemingly desert dry days of thankfulness, I somehow found something small, a three year olds giggle, a warm bed, a glass of wine, a light bulb moment from one of my students. Those little things truly reminded me on those days of drudgery or misery that life wasn’t all bad. Of course always on the lookout for Hindsight lessons, I began to realize that this attitude of gratefulness was not an easy one for me. It was not natural. It was way too easy to focus on all that was going wrong (which was plenty a year ago)…
And of course, that realization led to the realization that I most likely passed that Eeyore-like attitude to my sons and it wasn’t something that I wanted to continue to pass on to my daughter, Ila. So as with most changes, I started small and with the easy. It isn’t any secret the light that my daughter brings to this dark heart and troubled mind and so it was logical that I of course start there. Each day, like a heavy steam engine that was just beginning a journey from a stand-still, I chugged and huffed and puffed my way through the days holding on to one thought that would help me to feel grateful. The scene I chose came at the right time, my daughter was frustrated one night at dinner. She couldn’t find the words to tell us why. She threw down her spoon and we took her to her room to calm down. There she did anything but get calm, in fact she instead got more and more frantic and agitated. So I got up from the dinner table, scooped her up and sat down in my favorite bedroom rocker. I whispered gently so that she had to stop crying to hear me. I told her I loved her and that I was there to help. I told her that being calm and asking for help was much better than throwing a spoon and that daddy and I would always come to her aid. I talked about the four food groups and how important it was for her body to eat all four at least ONCE per day and I gave her some choices in order to fulfill those groups and make sure she was eating SOMETHING. All the while, she listened intently. After making some food choices, I stood up and carried her down the hall, and it was here…that three seconds in the hall in which the moment…MY gratitude moment happened. Looking down at her in my arms, I whispered that I loved her and she with a look, a look that I had never received before from any other human during my long life, told me that she loved me too. That look, one of gratitude, deep love, connection and peace filled my heart so that like the Grinch, it grew three times the size.
It was this moment that I went to when feeling curmudgeon-ish. It was this moment that I escaped to when finding out bad news. It was this gratifying moment that got me through the rejection of peers, physical ailments, and yes even PMS. When I was feeling the most bitter, thankless, ungrateful, hurt, I found one singular moment that reminded me that when all may seem bleak…well…ALL isn’t bleak.
As this year has progressed, I have gathered many other moments to hold on to when I needed a reminder to be grateful. I have even managed to be grateful in the present; noticing out loud the beauty of the mountains that surround our local lake, thanking my husband for a glass of wine, or a corny joke that makes me laugh, or simply for doing the laundry, marveling at the strength of our family unit and being so thankful for the love that comes from it. Being on the lookout for the things in life that are super wonderful kind of knocks the wind out of that ungrateful curmudgeon. And while making gratefulness an everyday part of my life has improved my psyche, what makes the effort even more spectacular is how it is shaping my daughter’s outlook on life.
I have noticed since spending one third of her life witnessing her mother pay homage to an abundance of goodness and light (and her WHOLE life learning from her instinctively thankful father) that gratefulness and a wonder for the beauty of living comes naturally to my daughter. I guess Lee Haney’s old adage, “Parents must lead by example…We are our children’s first and most important role models,” is the veritable truth. Hindsight has taught me that the quickest way to mold and shape our children is to model our actions and deeds, thoughts and words in the exact way that we wish them to act and think and speak. It is better than cajoling, then threatening, then punishing or expecting. Being who you want your children to be makes magical things happen.
Ila, because of her parents’ efforts to be grateful of the life they live, easily and habitually gives thanks for so many things. Quite often the things she chooses to give thanks for can floor me and leave me speechless. Like this one for instance: Every Saturday Ila goes to a bucolic town where there’s a little farm where she takes horseback riding lessons. The ride there and home is about 45 minutes long but picturesque. On the way home down a windy road we drive to the top of a hill where the view is wide and the Adirondack mountains surround us and veritably fill the front windshield; a breathtaking view. One Saturday not long ago we crested that familiar hill and looked upon the scene in its full fall foliage splendor. I was just about to gasp in awe when Ila’s voice cheerily filled the space.
Ila: Mama! Look at all those colors. It is beautiful isn’t it?
Me: Yes Ila. Absolutely beautiful.
Ila: Mama, we are so lucky to be able to see this view every Saturday aren’t we?
Me: (Teary) Yes my dear, we are.
Ila: We should thank God for giving us this gift.
Me: I think you just did, Ila. I think you just did.
It’s funny…when I need to rid myself of the bitter curmudgeon, when Eeyore sidles up to me wanting to bring me down, (‘Oh bother…doesn’t matter anyway…’) lately when I take a moment to practice gratitude, it is Ila’s capability to be thankful that comes to mind.
For my daughter, I am grateful.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (cc) JD Hancock]