By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon
Ahhh…November. The month of gratitude. Cue the cute social media posts. That are full of gratitude jars, gratitude trees, and gratitude journals for kids who somehow can’t hold a pencil yet. To be clear, I’m not against any of these things.
When my kids were little, I tried the gratitude jar. I envisioned us reading our entries later that year, delightedly celebrating answered prayers. Dutifully, I decorated a Mason jar with scrapbooking paper, set out slips of blank paper for family members to write on. Guess what, one person utilized it – me – for exactly three days. It turns out that managing a full-time job, three young children, and all the household responsibilities gets in the way of sitting down and writing tomes. Sadly, investing in a complaint jar would likely get more attention.
I am not one to be easily daunted, I tried again a few years later. This time, I wanted a gratitude tree. I bought fake orange leaves from Hobby Lobby. Then, I punched holes in them and tied them with twine to make ornaments. My neighbor joined me on an ill-fated journey to discover a dead branch large enough to “plant” in a crock. This task proved futile in our newly-built, tree-less neighborhood. The stick I eventually settled on proved to be top-heavy, and our gratitude tree toppled over every time we added a leaf. Yet again, it was quickly forgotten. The poor little stick remained planted in the dining room with three or four bedraggled leaves. It was basically the Thanksgiving version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.
All this isn’t to say that I’m against gratitude. To the contrary, I believe in the life – and mood – altering impact of giving thanks. Growing up, my mom often told me the story of Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was imprisoned in a concentration camp for hiding Jews during the Holocaust. She and her sister were living in a room that was positively infested with fleas, and her sister insisted that they thank God for the fleas. Bitter and begrudging, Corrie did just that. Later, they found out the reason the guards left them alone. The guards did not want to be near the fleas either. Imagine that – the fleas were their protection.
As a parent, I firmly believe that it’s my job to model gratitude. There’s strong evidence that the most effective way to combat entitlement in kids is to be grateful parents. The importance of gratitude increased exponentially, as my family walks through a season with more than its share of fleas,.
I’m not documenting it on Instagram. I don’t have a jar or a tree or a journal. Right now, in this season, it looks like saying a prayer of thankfulness when we back out of the garage. Miraculously on time. It looks like asking the kids to name one thing they’re grateful for before they go to bed. Currently, it is not in my capacity to write thank-you notes. Yet, gratitude now looks like intentionally thanking the people who drop off meals, show up for hard appointments, and give rides to my kids so I can work. Nothing about my life right now resembles the careful curation I used to aspire to. Yet, sometimes the gratitude is enough.
If you, like me, are walking through a hard season this November, please join me in giving thanks. However and wherever you can.
*Photography by Brittany Nicole Photography