Here’s the truth about being grateful: it’s hard to be grateful while cleaning up puke, or dog poop, or listening to siblings quibble about who got the bigger half of the granola bar (the one neither of them wanted until the other one did.)
It’s challenging keeping gratitude top of mind when you’re up to your elbows in the work that is being a parent.: 9pm runs to the grocery store to pick up “homemade” treats for the class party, trying to remove Sharpie pen from your only outfit that is both (fairly) fashionable and (somewhat) flattering while simultaneously comforting the sobbing “artist”, searching for appropriate clothing for the family holiday photograph that won’t reveal (or confirm) to the world how truly unfashionable and mismatched you all are .
“Oh, look how nicely they clean up!” you imagine the yearly recipients of your holiday card exclaiming, as they take in your familial one-time 'kemptness', your lack of a self-imposed haircut or a crumb-laden chin.
You know what though? The truth is, for me, it’s not the big things that get in the way of the gratitude; it’s all the little, silly, insignificant details- the ones that pile up and block my light.
So instead of taking in the smile of my six-year old as he basks in the glow of his birthday cake, I’m worrying whether everyone (adults!) need more wine, or whether everyone (children!) need more juice or time to go potty. It’s all goes so fast. By the time my brain registers how lovely everything is, the party’s over and it’s time for brushing teeth and getting ready for bed and negotiating the length of story time. Meanwhile, my adrenaline is still pumping, my gratitude valve still waiting to be released.
I am learning though. Of course, the chaos and confusion - those squeaky wheels of parenthood- still reign, demanding my attention, but I’m aiming not to notice as much, not to wait to appreciate the smaller moments that are happening too. I am looking in the cracks more: for the laughter, the small arm around a small shoulder, the afternoon light, the perfectly, unbelievably lucky normal-ness of everything.
Like on the morning of the birthday party, when my son snuggled up in our bed and opened his gift - the CD player he’d been hoping for. We put on the CD his dad had made especially for him. When Finn’s favorite song began to play, his eyes welled up with tears and he quickly ducked his head under the covers, because he was “so happy.”
Feeling grateful that day? Feeling grateful for my son's gratitude? Not hard at all.