The Practice of Gratitude in Parenting

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Gratitude is one of the first concepts thrust upon us in our experience of life. Think about it. Was “Thank you” not one of the first words you received in language and passed on to your children? We practice it with our children from before the moment we see their language skills begin to develop, perhaps first introducing it to them with baby sign language if we’re extra ambitious. Being only partially ambitious myself, with an extreme aversion to the screech, I was sure to instruct each of my children in three words in baby sign language, “More, please,” and you guessed it, “Thank you!”

From Childhood, I Took Two Things from the Practice of Gratitude.

The practice of gratitude is invaluable, maybe even above all else.

The practice of gratitude is a grateful heart.

I’ve taken these lessons to make a practice of gratitude that holds myself accountable for being grateful for the moments in life and the life that fills them.

While this is a worthy notion, life with my children has taken me to a deeper understanding of the practice of gratitude, a truer understanding, I believe.

The Practice of Gratitude I Know Now:

Comes from the Same Place of  Joy and Devastation I Knew as a Child.

I am responsible for carrying on for all of us now. This is a weight I could never have imagined before, a weight that is, frankly, too much for me, too often. My joy and my devastation alike are all the more overwhelming because of it. And my gratitude is all the more real for it.

Is Rooted in the Coming and Going of Seasons.

In my young children, I’ve seen for myself that every season is but a breath. Some breaths are more like birthing a child into the world. Others are like those of the fresh air on an Autumn stroll. They each are a breath, all the same. It is encouraging to know that no struggle will last, and humbling that the best of life is not mine to keep.

Is Simply Present in the Moments of Life.

The smile upon the face of any one of my children, let alone for me, or better yet for each other, fills my heart past what I ever thought it could have held. It’s in these moments that I’ve realized the practice of gratitude is not a matter of willing ourselves grateful. By all means, we should be intentional, but it’s a matter of being present where we are, honestly present. It’s telling the truth when it’s uncomfortable or less than desirable, but being open to what is still valuable there, simply by remaining present. It is being at peace with the truth that this moment will pass, and forgiving ourselves when we aren’t. The practice of gratitude is getting back up to try again. It’s a commitment to reaching our potential and venturing forward regardless of whether or not we have all the answers, because this is where life is, and it matters.

If this still sounds too epic for you, remember that the practice of gratitude is just that, a practice.

Here are Some Practices I’ve Adopted that Have Made my Practice of Gratitude Mine Again.

Breathe.

Breathe deep. Breathe through the pain. Breathe in the goodness. You, too, might be surprised at how often you hold your breath.

Tune In to Yourself.

You’re in a world filled with others. But you’re here. What do you see? What do you want to see? Where do you want to be? What do you enjoy? Turn on that song or playlist on repeat. Belt it at the top of your lungs. Set aside time for what you enjoy. Pick up the book. Get out in the wild. Sip that warm spiced cider—light a candle. The ambiance is life-changing, and there isn’t enough time in a day to be asking yourself again if it still smells like feet in here (That can’t just be me).

Break Life Into the Moments It Is.

You don’t have to have it all together all the time. Whether or not you’re sure you have it all, you can undoubtedly have all a moment has to offer, one moment at a time. Let it go when a moment has gone wrong or gone to waste; consciously, let it go. Look into the eyes of your baby. Smile. Tell that special someone you love them. Do the chore that makes someone’s day lighter. Speak the words that make someone’s heart brighter. Pull your loved one close. Listen to the story for the seventy-seventh time. Dance. Twirl with abandon. Make the mess. Learn something new. Get lost in the game. See the adventure come to life, there, in that one moment.

This is where your practice of gratitude is. You’ll be forever grateful you found it, right there, in a moment.

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