Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013!
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
~ Meister Eckhart
Religious or not, all parents pray in some way or another. We yearn for our children to be happy and healthy. We hope that the ills they bear in life will be minor and easy to recover from. We envision their living well and being fulfilled in their lives. We also wish to be parents who help rather than hinder, love rather than limit, and nurture rather than neglect the children we have to care for. And we say “thank you,” countless times for all the richness and blessings we and our children experience in the course of our lives.
What we may find hard or confusing to do is to give thanks for the pain, trials, and tribulations of parenting (for ourselves and for our children). We want to praise the light and celebrate the victories. We find it natural to curse the darkness and regret the losses. But what if we embraced those low moments in our parenting journey and, after learning from them and making amends for them when necessary, said a word of thanks for these as well? How would this change us or the way we parented?
Why give thanks?
Many years ago I worked for and with a group of physicians. Late one day, one of these doctors stopped by my office and gave me some critical feedback on some work I’d done. While I don’t now remember the details, what I do recall is my nearly instant feelings of embarrassment, anger, and judgment toward this man for the way he communicated toward me and his lack of gentleness. For some reason, however, just a short while after he left me, I was actually feeling grateful for what he’d said. His remarks, though hard for me to hear, woke me up to some things that I’d been reluctant to acknowledge and admit. Had he not done what he did, the wider truths he’d exposed might have stayed hidden from me even longer.
Giving thanks is both an action and an attitude. It is our inner response to the world and the events of our lives. Whether we are glad or sad for what has passed, thankfulness is a way of acknowledging the journey and the gifts it brings us.
Giving thanks for the darkness
- When we give thanks to the things we don’t like, we open up a space in our hearts for the possibility that there is some gift in the pain.
- By being thankful for what is hard, we may even be gently nudging that part of us that fears learning and growing.
- Gratitude in difficult times may protect us from further pain by acknowledging that our vision is so limited that what we see as “bad” may actually be “good.” See “The Farmer’s Luck” at the end for a story about perspective.
- Our judgmental nature may also be softened by giving thanks for life’s pain as we are reminded that despite our ego’s repeated assertions, we are the ruler of the universe (nor the ruler of our own homes).
- Thankfulness may soothe our aching hearts when our pain comes from our own fallibility, missteps, and hurtful actions.
- Gratitude for life’s hardships may unite us in our common humanity as we personally experience pain and darkness that visits all human hearts. Our own suffering can awaken our compassion for the suffering of others.
- Being thankful for that which we don’t like may more quickly or resolutely put us on a path toward different future choices than if we continued to inwardly curse our bad fortune.
Giving thanks for the light
While it may seem a natural response that doesn’t need explanation, I believe giving thanks for what we like serves many purposes for us and our families.
- Saying a heart-felt “thank you” brings us a greater awareness of how blessed we are in a culture that barrages us with messages of how little we have and how much more we need to be happy.
- Our gratitude for a gift sends an energetic message of “Hey, Life, send more of this my way!” When we feel good emotionally about an experience (the deeper part, not just our initial or surface reaction), we actually draw more of those good vibes toward us.
- Thankfulness for an experience can soothe us even if other parts of our lives feel out of sync or troubled. Having a grateful heart may even help shift these other places in our lives as we consciously focus on our blessings.
- Being thankful for “good fortune” can strengthen us for those times when we experience “ill fortune” and aren’t yet ready to embrace these with a happy heart.
Gratitude is a great gift
A friend recently lost her seven year old daughter to cancer. As a mother, I can imagine yet scarcely fathom how she is surviving such a painful and unwanted experience in her parenting journey. Her daughter was a brilliantly bright light in our world and her presence was an enduring gift to all those who knew her. While my friend may never feel gratitude for her daughter’s actual death, I know that the loss heightens her thankfulness for the life her daughter had and that place in the mother’s life too.
While we may not have this kind of loss in our parenting journey, we all will face pain, heart-ache, regret, despair, and loss of our own. We will each additionally face joy, triumph, elation, success, and heart-opening in our time as parents. One of the most useful and enduring gifts we can give ourselves and our children is a conscious practice and intentional attitude of gratitude for it all. For whether we first want to like it or lump it, this parenting journey is truly one of the richest and most profoundly life-altering experiences we are privileged to take.
“The Farmer’s Luck”
There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses. “Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the farmer.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Such bad luck,” they said. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. “Such good luck!” cried the neighbors. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
~ Jon J. Muth in Zen Shorts
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 30 with all the carnival links.)
- Counting My Blessings — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama expresses the importance of reflecting daily on all of her blessings, a ritual she shares with her daughter. Jennifer also shares a few things that she is most grateful for. .
- Thanksgiving — It really is true that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Vicky at Single Mother Ahoy had no choice but to be thankful for all the things that had a good go at finishing her off this year!
- My little gratitude list — Stone Age Parent provides a summary list of all that she is grateful for in her life, including her son, her family, her home, her friends and her country.
- Baking Bread and Nurturing Wonder— Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her way of keeping family traditions alive and nurturing a sense of wonder and thankfulness for food through preparing homemade bread during the Holidays.
- Going Inside for the Winter Holidays — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children reflects that going inside, both physically and figuratively, allows her family to enjoy the winter season in peace and reflection with plenty of time for appreciation of the most important people in her life.
- Traditions — Sustainable Mum discusses the difficulty of establishing traditions that were important in her own childhood for her own children.
- Giving thanks for parenthood — Can we truly give thanks for both the darkness and the light on our parenting journey? Shonnie from Heart-Led Parenting shares her perspective on how gratitude for all that life offers is possible and essential.
- A Tree for the Birds— Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares her family’s new tradition of skipping a traditional Christmas tree in favor of one in the yard.
- Cultivating Gratitude In Children — Lindy at Poppy Soap Co. shares her unique plan for helping her son understand just how blessed they are as a family.
- Are You Truly Grateful — Laura at Authentic Parenting ponders about the ramifications of gratitude as a characteristic.