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Challenge: Gratitude & Giving

Why every stage of my kids' lives makes me feel grateful

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1447f1655e96570a85d88a634553c09e4aa7614d.jpgPhoto credit: ballyscanlon / Getty Images

I’m grateful for my birth plan gone awry, the first parenting lesson that I’m not in control and that my plan actually doesn’t matter as long as I and my children are safe.

I’m grateful for newborn babies, a beautiful reminder that humanity should go on.

I’m grateful that parental love is universal and understood in every language and culture, uniting us across the world. When a parent celebrates, I can feel their happiness. When a parent grieves, I am grateful I can feel that, too.

I’m grateful for toddler tantrums. The first time my toddlers threw themselves on the ground in despair, I saw the spirit they would need to survive when life gets hard.

I’m grateful for the experience of walking my young children through nature, which forced me to slow down and appreciate every leaf, bug, and flower. I’m grateful they fell down on those walks so they could learn what it takes to stand back up.

I’m grateful that young children have not been taught to hate, or discriminate, or judge.

I’m grateful for the simplicity of elementary school: showing up, learning the basics, following the rules, doing the projects.

I’m grateful that every stage makes me remember what it was like to grow up: the insecurities of middle school, the egocentrism of high school, and beyond.

I’m grateful I can watch them strike out in baseball and hold their heads high as they walk to the dugout, because I know they’ll need to hold their heads high when they strike out 1,000 more times in life.

I’m grateful when they get irritated with me, or I with them, because they learn that you don’t always have to agree to be in a family. I am exceedingly grateful when I see them disagree in their own worlds and feel empowered to speak up for what is right.

I’m grateful that parenting makes me step back and appreciate the big picture. Grades, awards and athletics are far less important than raising my kids to be kind.

I’m grateful that parenting forces me to get outside myself. Sure, my needs go to the back burner sometimes, but I am a better person for the sacrifices, I think.

I’m grateful for my parenting screw-ups, because they show me my kids are resilient and, some days, thrive despite my parenting.

I’m grateful that the presents I buy, the brand of clothes they wear, the size of our house and the family trips don’t make me a good parent.

I’m grateful that what will make me a successful parent is attainable. If my kids leave the nest with the security of belonging and knowing they are loved, that is enough. No matter what happens in their lives, there will be a Thanksgiving table to which they can come home, with sweet potato and green bean casseroles, cranberries, turkey and dressing, and people who love them.

I’m grateful that the most important thing I can give them — my love — is free.

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