Gratitude is most important when things aren’t good.
One of the things I think I’ve been pretty good at as a mom is focusing on my kids’ ability to say thank you – for gifts, for someone who gave them a ride home, for life.
A few years ago, I personally committed to saying “Thank you for this day” when I woke up in the morning, a habit I’ve since credited with improving my daily mood. In my house, it’s been “Say ‘thank you’ or else” since then.
I especially pay attention to being thankful when November rolls around. (Hello, Thanksgiving.) This year though, it hasn’t been easy. Instead, I’ve found myself trading my usual ‘thank-yous’ with unanswerable questions involving the word ‘why.’
The past few weeks have brought unexpected and somber trips from my home in Los Angeles to Fresno and then back to L.A. on account of a serious family health emergency.
Quiet tears running down my face while driving up and down the I-5 have become my new normal. Cry, cope, live and work, repeat.
No matter how some of us think we can dodge tough times, we can’t. I’m a grown-up. I understand that. But how the heck are we supposed to be grateful when things aren’t good? How can I make sure my kids learn to cope with the parts of life that punch us in the stomach?
(We parents are the only examples our kids have for learning how to deal with bad seasons in life, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to fail that portion of the program.)
My kids know something’s up and ask me why I’ve been so sad. So, I share certain facts and feelings in age-appropriate ways, and we talk. I don’t have all answers, and I tell them that.
Life is not all good all the time, and I’m a believer that small kids should understand reality in a non-scary way.
During my most recent drive back to L.A., I was listening to Sirius XM’s “On Broadway.” This won’t surprise those who know me. The song “Count Your Blessings” from “White Christmas” came on – I was shocked.
In all my years and trips back and forth to Fresno listening to that station, that song had never been played. I turned it up, listened carefully to the lyrics and the tears came. I had just passed Bakersfield and was heading toward the Ridge Route.
I drove through the mountains and forced myself to count my own blessings through all the bad. I got home, got my daughters ready for bed and helped them count their blessings, too.
Was I suddenly happy again? Of course not, but bringing my random blessings to the front of my brain (mostly involving my family and friends) made things feel better for a moment.
The next morning, I made myself say, “Thank you for this day,” when I opened my eyes – even though I knew that day would be tough, too.
I also reminded my kids to say thank you to their friends, teachers, the cafeteria lady who gives them lunch and anyone else who might say or do something nice for them that day. The more I say “thank you,” the more I feel like I’m fighting against the bad.
Gratitude is not only for good times. Gratitude helps us cope. Gratitude makes us stronger. The biggest, most urgent part of my job as a parent right now is to remind my kids that saying “thank you” is imperative no matter what challenges we face, ever.
Gratitude counts, always. Because every day is a gift to be grateful for.
Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno and is creator of TheFabMom.com. Her book for pregnant moms, 'The FAB Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby' is available now. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @jillsimonian.