Monday, November 19, 2012

Obligatory thanks

"Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God has done..."

"Give thanks, with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks, because he's given Jesus Christ, his son..."

It's that time of year.  A brief pause in our relentless quest for "more" to stop and acknowledge the many blessings we have.  I know the importance of gratitude and have experienced the change in my perspective that has come through starting my day with writing a gratitude list.  I've cried through Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts and have joined the 30 Days of Thanksgiving bandwagon on Facebook.  I know that I have so very much to be thankful for, and have held onto that in the midst of some (minor) trying times.  But I have to wonder, does it make a difference in the long run?

I think about my children, who are so blissfully unaware of how blessed they are.  They are loved and safe and healthy, as all children should be, and yet, I know this is not the reality for many.  Perhaps they are too sheltered.  As we collect donations for food banks, write letters to our sponsored child through Compassion, and shop for our annual Christmas shoe box project, I have moments when I see that they are not really "getting" it, regardless of how intentional we are trying to be.  There was the major meltdown over the purple hairbrush in the shoebox that Maryn just HAD to have even though she has multiple hair brushes.  When we pass by the homeless on our way to church, it's an opportunity to speak about the gifts we have and how we are to share them with others.  The first time I had this conversation with Brady, he actually laughed and said, "No! Everyone has a home!" and nothing I said could convince him otherwise.  I wish he were right.  Part of me wishes he could continue to live in his utopia where everyone has enough, and yet I know that nothing would change if we lived in ignorance.

Then there are the times that I groan in frustration with their lack of gratitude for what they receive.  I suppose it's part of the egocentricity of childhood, but everything is about them and their demands, and it is impossible to think outside of it.  Wants become confused with needs, and "love" means "give me what I want, because I NEED it NOW."  Snacks are demanded and snatched up with greedy hands and no thanks (although manners are always emphasized).  Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues when one does not get one's way.  Today, I spent my rare free time between school drop off and pick up buying snacks for Brady's class party tomorrow (which I will help with instead of indulging in more "free time"), running errands, cleaning the house, and then preparing a special picnic of snacks for him after school.  After that, we ran on the playground, played board games, watched a movie together, and had a dinner of hot dogs and mac and cheese.  How did this end?  With screaming and tears that I NEVER do ANYTHING for him (i.e. I wouldn't let him play on my phone).  When I asked about the special picnic, he only spat out criticism about how it could have been better.

I wonder if it will always be so.  Will I one day get a phone call gushing with gratitude for all I sacrificed and offered for their benefit?  I like to daydream about this, and yet, I know it's only a dream.  I never realized the depth of my own mother's love and devotion to me until I became a parent, and even though I greatly cherish it, I don't take the time to tell her often enough.

I guess that's the gift of parenthood.  You pour in all you have, not because you expect anything in return, but because you are so blessed with love for them that it's just impossible not to share.  Unconditional love is not a child's gift to us, but a parent's gift for their child.  This love sees through the temporary pains and struggles and holds onto hope for a beautiful journey ahead for our children, where our happiness is found in their independence.

But if I have one (selfish) wish, it's as Tina Fey wrote in "A Mother's Prayer for Her Daughter" in her hilarious book Bossypants:

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,”she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

May it be so.

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