When parents think of the things we’re grateful for, our kids generally make the top of the list. That said, when your kids are noisily begging you to eat the snack you are in the middle of making, or when you notice the “creative” way in which they’ve taken a ballpoint pen to the couch cushions… that river of gratitude suddenly dries right up. We’ve all been there.
With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought it might be helpful to “reframe” the way we view our kids’ shenanigans (e.g., the tendency to act like kids who, by nature, possess underdeveloped brains). There’s still much to be grateful for, even when your kid is a millimeter away from destroying your last nerve.
You ask your kid to find her shoes. She stares at her coloring book, as if in a trance. You stand two inches from her face and say, “I’m talking to you. It’s time to find your shoes. We are leaving in five minutes.” She ignores you. Using your flight-attendant voice, you ask “Can you hear me?” She nods, almost imperceptibly. Two minutes later, you tell her to put down her coloring book and get her shoes on. She says okay but remains glued to said coloring book. When she looks up again, you’re putting your coat on and saying through gritted teeth. “I’m not going to tell you again. Get your shoes on. It’s time to go.”
Through sobs, she proclaims, “I’m in the middle of something.”
Be grateful for: Your child’s capacity to focus. Bonus: She might put her superior power of concentration to use when selecting your nursing home.
Your kid is asking you for a snack. You tell her she’s going to have to wait a minute; you’re in the middle of something. She responds by telling you exactly what kind of snack she’d like. “I need Goldfish,” she informs you. She continues, “The cheddar kind. And they need to be in the purple ramekin.” You thought you had a five-year-old, not a rock star with a mile-long event rider. Visions of bedtime dance in your mind. Instead, you look at her and say, “What would be a nicer way to aks?” with the sweetness of maple syrup in your voice. Matching your saccharine request, she complies, asking, “Can I please have cheddar Goldfish in the purple ramekin? And also, I want more than my sister. Please.”
Be grateful for: Your child’s ability to know what she wants. This child will not need you to call her professor or landlord on her behalf twenty years from now.
You’re ready to leave the park. Your child is not. She’s creating a castle out of gravel using her hands and the shoe you specifically told her not to take off her foot. Your stomach is rumbling. Lunchtime is rapidly closing in. Why isn’t your child hungry, you wonder? As you approach her, you notice the wild look in her eye. She is hungry indeed. The smell of a meltdown is in the air. “Let’s go home!” you say. “NOOOOO!” she says. You offer macaroni and cheese for lunch. She glances up for a fraction of a second then goes back to her task. In about seven minutes, you will be carry-dragging her to the car with her shoe tucked awkwardly under your arm and strapping her into her car seat like it’s a straightjacket. Once she’s in the house and seated at the table with a pile of neon orange noodles in front of her, she will eat like it’s her last supper.
Be grateful for: Your kid’s ability to be fully present in each moment. She’s not checking her texts or her social media notifications. She’s really living, man.
“You should be ready for school in five minutes,” you announce. Your child says she is ready. Yesterday’s French braid is hanging on by a few tenacious wisps. She’s in a floral tank top, a tutu, and leopard print leggings. It is snowing. She has on non-matching socks and her sparkly Velcro® sneakers. “But…” You stop before you complete the sentence because you don’t know how to say “You look homeless” nicely. “Sweetheart, it’s November. How about a long sleeve on top of that tank top?” is the best thing you can come up with. After all, she is fully dressed. She’s wearing sneakers on P.E. day. Her teeth are brushed. The bus is coming in ten minutes. There’s no time for a visit from the fashion police. “Do you feel good in that outfit?” you ask. She nods, beaming.
Be grateful for: The fact that your kid thinks for herself. If she knows what the other kids are wearing, she clearly does not care. With any luck, ten years from now she won’t be blowing her allowance on the latest trend and insisting on shoes that’ll blow out a tendon if she so much as slips on a rogue acorn.
There is always something to be grateful for if you look hard enough. As parents, it’s important to remember, how you view a situation depends on where you stand (and of course how loudly your kid is whining).
Pam Moore is an award-winning freelance writer, intuitive eating coach, and host of the Real Fit podcast.