Gratitude

I was asked to do a little reflection on gratitude today at my Unitarian Universalist church, and thought I'd share it here too.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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One thing I appreciate beyond measure is the opportunity I’ve had to be a mother.  Partly because it’s been so much fun to spend my life with the particular kids that I got, but also for the more subtle joy of learning to be a parent, and all of that’s come with it.  I had imagined that certain things would be involved in parenting, and for the most part, they have – lots of basic care – feeding, clothing, and nurturing.  And a few things I didn’t anticipate, like all the driving, and the incredible volume of forms – endless places where my signature has marked that I’m okay with one thing or another. 

There’ve been so many forms that I wish I had just signed something once, at the very beginning, that says,
“I love my children more than you can imagine, and I hope with everything I’ve got that no harm will befall them, but I do trust the world, and I’m excited for them to go out into it.  I understand that there are risks: hearts will be broken, bodies will be damaged, they may enter a facility that has been used for processing nuts or gluten, and there may be swearing or mention of sex. They will suffer large and small disappointments; they’ll learn that people can be cruel to one another, and everyone isn’t interested in hearing another side, or using data to inform decisions, or striving to be patient and kind and reasonable.  They’ll learn that climate change is happening, and Anne Frank was murdered, they might not get on a good team for the zombie apocalypse, and someone else may get the corner piece of birthday cake with the big frosting flower; I understand that they may get an interior piece of cake with a disappointingly small volume of frosting.  But you have my blessing to take them into the world." 
I would even sign my note “godspeed”, because I love that phrase except for choking on the god part.
 
In the earliest part of their lives, I wanted to protect my kids from suffering, but now, I want them to go out and experience all that life hands out.  My wish is that they behave decently when they get dealt a bad hand, find something to celebrate anyway, and take comfort in good friendships.  I want them to behave well not because it gets them somewhere, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.   Because that, in my opinion, is the work of religious humans – to celebrate anyway, to care about other people, and to act well.  (Confession:  I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “religious” like that before, but I think we should try to claim that word back, and let it mean something good.)

But the part of parenting that I didn’t anticipate is the chance to love unconditionally.  I had sort of assumed that it would just come with the territory; that it was a feeling that wouldn’t waver, but it does.  I get tired, and irritable, and overwhelmed with the minutiae of our lives, and disappointed that things aren’t going the way I’d imagined. I’m not as patient or fun or organized or consistent in real life as I am in my dreams, and some evenings, the food groups aren’t all represented on the plate.

Several years ago, someone told me that we really only get one crack at unconditional love, and it’s as a child. I’ve thought about that for about a decade now, and I’ve realized that no, we get two chances:  as a child, if we’re lucky, we receive it, but as a parent, if we’re lucky, we can give it.  One of the greatest joys of my life so far has been the chance I’ve had to love my children well, even, or maybe especially, when it took a little effort.  I’m grateful for the chance to practice trying harder, and to bring that effort into the world outside of my house.  To behave patiently when I’m not feeling it, to try to see another side (even though my side is definitely right!), to work at forgiveness, and to try to bring compassion into challenging situations.  These are things I’m learning from my kids, and they’re making my life better.

Comments

  1. Well I'm grareful I got the chance to read this and came away with a slightly different mind set. Thanks.

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  2. Hi Delores; thanks for reading! I promise to get to your ten things list soon. . . (It's harder than it looks!)

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  3. Here's a standing ovation from a fellow parent and UU. Would've loved to have heard this from the pulpit, but am glad I found it here (via murrmurr's blog). Bravo and hear hear!

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