Thank heavens, my kid finally fell asleep! That qualifies as gratitude, right? Welcome to ParentalGrit, where we’re spending the next five days on gratitude and it’s role in parenting. Gratitude has been a cultural buzzword for the last few years, as self-help gurus, entrepreneurs, and business leaders have trumpeted the praises of gratitude exercises. One of the most popular gratitude applications is daily journaling, where one is prescribed the task of detailing 3 or more items that he or she is grateful for each day. There are a few different spins on the practice, but we’re basically taking a spin off the Thanksgiving tradition of identifying what we’re thankful for (the food—always the food). So sit back, read on, and thank me wildly for taking you on a week-long gratitude adventure.
We live in a bizarre world where our cultural norms tend to overvalue stuff and appearances rather than relationships and experiences. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with stuff, the $930 Billion dollars of credit card debt—in the U.S. alone—seems to indicate we’re a bit too focused on accumulation. If I flip through my Facebook or Instagram feeds, I’m usually going to see nothing but glossy images of the wonderful lives everyone is living, replete with designer fashions, new cars, and state-of-the-art electronics. In my own reality, I laugh that if you add both my wife and I’s iPhones together, we’d have an iPhone 9. Anyways, it’s difficult to work gratitude in when we’re all focused on what we don’t have.
When it comes to parenting, I feel like the situation is even more amplified. For all the joy that having and raising a child brings, it’s all too common to be forever self-conscious in a very judgmental arena. Parenting can be surprisingly competitive for many people and the results can often be ugly for the kiddos. How fast can my kid start walking? How many goals did he score in a rec league soccer game for five year olds? How nice is the SUV we dropped her off at preschool in? Is 11 too early to apply for Harvard? We could certainly speculate to the causes of such behavior, but it’s the world we live in regardless; the better question is how do we deal with it? How do we deal with the insecurities of not having the time, the money, or whatever other resources other parents might have? Or, perhaps, how do we deal with the still nagging self-doubts even if we do have all those things?
That’s where the gratitude trend and the dozens and dozens of different gratitude exercises can help. As I mentioned before, one of the most popular practices is to simply identify three positive things each day. Maybe you worked too long for too little and missed out on the evening, but hopefully there’s a 10-minute bedtime story you can be grateful for. Maybe you’re just scraping by financially but your spouse still managed to prepare a family dinner. It’s good health. It’s good friends. A special moment here and there. As parents, we’re constantly bombarded with what we need and what we don’t have, that it’s incredibly difficult to focus on what we do have. We’re all guilty of taking for granted the adventures and struggles we endure as parents (can I use sleep deprivation as an excuse?) and it can be very challenging to recognize the good, even in the mundane day-to-day of parenthood survival.
Again, it’s challenging to be grateful as a parent. Life immediately starts progressing at a breakneck speed and there’s never enough time, there’s never enough money, and there’s never enough…life. It’s all a blink. So this week we’ll be focusing on the good, the encouraging, and all the ways gratitude can help protect our sanity and restore order in our lives. Family life is chaos, if you hadn’t noticed, so be sure to take a moment to appreciate all the good things quietly circulating in the tornado of stress and self-doubt.
I shall walk the proverbial walk this week and include three items I’m grateful for each day—I’ll even try not to be sarcastic as I am often wont to do.
- My oldest daughter Eliza LOVES reading. It can be exhausting sometimes to read the same book 17 consecutive times but I am really glad her love of books is still sticking thus far. We read 11 books tonight before bedtime.
- I made a batch of homemade baby food for Everly (sweet potato and bison…because I’m weird like that) today for the first time and I’m so thankful she is healthy at the 6-month mark as we transition into solids.
- We saw two of my wife’s siblings and their kids this weekend; it’s a valuable blessing to have the amount of family we do living in the same area.