Millions of parents will pause this Thanksgiving to do what the day was originally created for--- give thanks for the many blessings that exist in their lives. Turkey, pumpkin pie, and the presence of loved ones will receive their fair share of gratitude during this annual ritual of appreciation. Many parents will also give thanks for their children's health, the arrival of a newborn, or a recent marriage. The abundance provided by the universe, opportunities for meaningful work, and the laughter of children will likely be appreciated by loving parents as they thank the creator for their blessings. Indeed, this traditional day calls for traditional thank you-s.
But what if your appreciation this Thanksgiving took on a new look? What if the blessings you count this year included items and situations that aren't always seen as helpful, useful or valuable? Consider the following.
Why not be thankful that your child is two years behind grade level in his reading ability? This struggling reader is giving you the opportunity to read to him regularly at night. This evening ritual will help build connectedeness between you and your child while at the same time modeling your love for the printed word. Great literature like The Little Engine that Could or The Diary of Anne Frank can be shared as you simultaneously bond with your child. This opportunity is an incredible blessing. Appreciate it.
Why not be thankful that your daughter's soccer team lost their last game. It is important that your children have experiences of winning and losing. By losing, children have the opportunity to learn to handle defeat and bounce back next time. With your help they can learn that winning or losing is not the measure of who and what they are as human beings. They can learn they are more than the score. They can learn it is effort, energy, and playing up to potential with good sportsmanship that defines a winner, not the scoreboard. Appreciate the loss and be grateful for it.
Why not be thankful your teenager received a speeding ticked for going 45mph in a 25mph speed zone? Getting a ticket is not bad thing. Not if your teen learns from it and slows her driving for the next year. If your teen takes personal responsibility, pays the ticket, and is more cautious about her driving the ticket may well save her life or the life of someone else in the future. Bless the ticket and give thanks for it's blessings.
Why not be thankful that your eight-year-old shoplifted in the grocery store? This is the perfect time to teach your child about shoplifting. Better now than when he helps himself to someone else's car when he is eighteen years old. Teach him how to make amends. Teach him what to say as he returns the candy bars to the store owner. Help him learn to articulate what he learned and what he intends to do differently next time. Bless this perfect time to teach lessons about taking things that don't belong to you. Be grateful for the opportunity.
Why not be thankful that your youngsters track mud and sand into the garage and house? The next time you stand in the garage furiously sweeping sand, wishing your children were better behaved---quietly remind yourself, one day you'll wish you had sand to sweep out of the garage. Love the mud. Love the sand. Be grateful for the signal of the presence of children in your life.
Why not be thankful for sibling rivalry? "He got more than I did," and "It isn't fair," are common childhood refrains. Hitting, poking and teasing your sister are typical childhood behaviors. Bless these opportunities to help your children learn how to get along with each other. Use them as times to teach interpersonal skills and the importance of touching each other gently. Sibling rivalry is a call for help, a signal that your children need lessons interacting positively with each other. Bless their unskillful way of asking for help. Be grateful that you recognize it and help them grow in working and playing cooperatively.
Why not be thankful that you got to stay home with a sick child last week? You didn't have to stay home. You got to stay home. You didn't have to take him to the doctor. You got to take him to the doctor. You got to make sure he received the health care he needed. You got to show him you care enough to drive all over town to the doctors, the pharmacists and back home again. You got to be with your boy while he was sick. Not everyone gets to be with their children when they are sick. You did. Chalk it up as a blessing. Celebrate it this Thanksgiving.
Why not be thankful your adolescent asked you about oral sex? This is a great sign. It means your child trusts you enough to talk to you about sex. It means your child is not getting all her sex knowledge from the street. It means you have been taking your role as sex educator in your family seriously and that you have moved beyond "the talk" to having an on-going, honest conversation about the important subject of sex. Congratulate yourself. It is a blessing that you are willing to fulfill that role with your child and that she is responding to it positively. Give thanks.
Why not be thankful that your 20-year-old has moved out of your home? Did you really want to raise a 30-year-old video game player who sits around your house all day sucking up diet Pepsi and pizza? Hardly! Your goal was to raise a responsible, caring confident child who would move away from home when they time was right for her. You have been successful. Pat yourself on the back. Yes, it would nice if she had chosen to spend this Thanksgiving with you rather than with her boyfriend's parents. Maybe next year. This year give thanks. Your child is an adult. That is a blessing.
Why not give thanks that your child is spilling milk, talking with his mouth full, wiping cranberry sauce on his new pants, refusing to eat his vegetables, and interrupting his grandmother at the dinner table this day? It means you have more work to do as a parent. It means your job is not yet done. This is a blessing. You are still needed to help you child learn to pour milk more carefully, improve his table manners, learn to eat nutritiously, and show respect for elders. Give thanks for these opportunities.
Why not be thankful for your special needs child? Do you have a child with ADHD? Is your child autistic, dyslexic, or have Down's syndrome? Is your child facing a serious health challenge? They are in your life for a reason. Perhaps they have come to help you learn patience, understanding, or commitment. Perhaps they are here to teach your family about tolerance, acceptance of differences, or unconditional love. Their presence is a blessing. Be thankful for the contribution they are making to the planet and to your family.
This Thanksgiving, remember that parenting is a ministry. It is a sacred role that you are being called to perform. Give thanks that you have been called. Give thanks that you are willing to step forward and accept that call. Appreciate that the way is being shown to you. Celebrate yourself and your contribution to healing the planet by helping your children evolve into the people they were meant to be. You are a blessing to the world. Give thanks that you are up to the task.