A Parenting Guide to Gratitude

‘Tis the season to be thankful, and it can be hard for many of us to pull ourselves out of our exhausted, overworked, eye-twitching world to realize just how lucky we are. Everyone knows we’re grateful for our spouses and kids and homes, but it takes a little something extra (usually vodka) to find gratitude in the tantrums and leaky diapers of daily life. Luckily for all you worse-for-wear parents out there, I will now illustrate how to dig deep and turn any less-than-perfect parenting moment into a reason to beam with gratitude. You can thank me later!

SITUATION NO. 1: In the epic struggle between your sense of shame and need for sustenance, the grocery store (and whatever children you’ve mistakenly brought with you) is winning. Maybe they ran out of car carts. Maybe the deli was offering slices of the wrong color cheese or the lobsters weren’t available for a meet-and-greet. Maybe you had to bag your own groceries next to a display of loosely packaged cookies within your child’s reach and said display is now laying scattered on the floor, crunching under your non-car-cart wheels. MAYBE you just made the mistake of having more than one kid with elbows and decided to strap them next to each other in a metal cage on wheels for an hour, hoping for the best.

TRY THE THANKFUL APPROACH: Thank you, grocery store, for never failing to create an incredibly humbling atmosphere in case I start to get too cocky about my parenting skills. The tantrums you elicit combined with your patrons who can’t resist telling me how full my hands are (without ever offering to help soothe a single thrashing, screaming toddler they don’t know… weird!) remind me that I am but a discarded cheese wrapper at the bottom of the shopping cart of life. If not for your weekly reminder, I’d have nothing but toddler church farts and garbage-can-tastings to keep me grounded. I vow to never give annoying, unsolicited parenting advice to anyone again, ever.

SITUATION NO. 2: You give your small children an inch of freedom, and they use it to take a bite of every crayon, old noodle under the table, and a stink bug while you’re not looking. Also an acorn, some bird seed, a handful of Legos, and $0.12.

HAVE AN EXTRA HELPING OF THANKFUL: Thank you, Crayola products, for being non-toxic, which translates to “practically edible” in our house. Thank you, toddlers whose appetites are never satiated (unless it’s an actual meal time at the table), for helping me “clean” the floors. Thank you for being you, double absorbency diapers, because something wily is about to happen.

SITUATION NO. 3: You haven’t slept through the night in four years because you are hugely pregnant / have recently birthed a nocturnal newborn / encourage the “family bed” sleeping arrangement. You look — and feel — like you’ve been toking bath salts for a decade.

WAKE UP AND GIVE THANKS:  Thank you, giant cup of coffee, for bringing me back to life even though you’re usually tepid and have had small fingers dipped into you by the time I get a chance to drink you. Thank you, car keys, for almost always having been in my hand the whole time after I’ve been looking for you in an exhausted haze for ten minutes. Thank you, purple nail polish remover that looks exactly like purple clarifying lotion, for removing any invisible OPI on my face in the wee hours of the morning when you two are completely indistinguishable. Mostly, thank you, rare and elusive three-hour baby naps, for making the restful depletion of DVR backlog possible.

SITUATION NO. 4: Your children’s antics are causing you to consider skipping the border in the middle of the night. You’ve found your makeup in the toilet and your remote control in the load of wet laundry. Your kids’ favorite games alternate between the timeless classic, “Put Your Feet On Someone’s Head,” and the aptly titled, “Smack,” in which they spin in a small room with their arms outstretched and say “smack, smack, smack, smack” as they smack each other in the head. You can’t leave the house in under 45 minutes because asking a small child to put shoes on his feet is like to asking him to put chainsaws on his eyes. (Wait, make that a singular chainsaw because the mate is ALWAYS MISSING.)

GIVE THANKS, NOT SPANKS: Thank you, self preservation, for allowing me to develop this ability to completely tune out the sound of whining (my husband can do it too, but he calls his “going dead inside”). Thank you, inane places like Michael’s Arts and Crafts, for giving me a failsafe place to go to see other moms whose kids are acting as badly or worse than mine. Thank you, modern dentistry, for the mouth guard protecting my teeth from the “clenching habit” I developed shortly after the birth of my oldest son.

There’s much to be taken for granted in the game of motherhood, and especially during this time of year, it’s important to step back and reflect on all your many blessings. When life gives you lemons, just be thankful you didn’t have to take your kids to the grocery store to pick them up yourself. Then mix it with your vodka when they all go to bed. Try for yourself!

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?


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