The Thanksgiving tradition in my family is that instead of saying grace before dinner, we go around the table and each person says what they are thankful for. This year, however, we spent the holiday with my husband’s family and my father-in-law said a traditional grace. It was a nice grace, but as I was falling asleep later that night, I felt a little sad that we all didn’t get to say what we’re thankful for. I said so to my husband. I missed that yearly tradition of my family’s. And, being a list maker, I can’t help but make my list of the things I’m thankful for.
In no particular order, I’m thankful for:
1. The health of my family and the things that go to sustain that health: clean water, good quality food, organic fruits and vegetables, and daily exercise.
2. Laughter and especially the laughter of my children. Is there a more beautiful sound than your children laughing? Or the sound of your children laughing because they are playing together, even if one is three and one is 4 months old?
3. Being a breastfeeding mom, I’m thankful for the breastfeeding laws that protect my right to live my life and breastfeed at the same time, whether I’m grocery shopping, taking my son to the playground or working.
4. Having a marriage where my husband and I communicate and are on the same page when it comes to parenting, education, nutrition, and other values. Whenever I get worn out I think of my friends who are single parents – and still stellar parents – and wonder how they do it, not just doing it all themselves most the time, but doing it without having someone to talk things through with, whether it’s the choices for schools or how to teach the kids conflict resolution skills. Having someone to share the wild ride of parenting with, for me, makes it far more fun and easier.
5. That my husband and I have chosen to parent in a way that reflects our values – even when it goes against the grain, is different from many friends and extended family members, and even causes concern in some (“What? You don’t punish your children? How do they know right from wrong?”). I’m also thankful for how much we’ve already seen the benefit of this, of how much our three year-old son communicates his feelings and what’s okay with him, that while he may get scared at a puppet show, he doesn’t get scared of potentially getting in trouble for expressing himself.
6. I’m thankful for Roe v. Wade, not just because it makes a relatively simple procedure safe and available for women or has the side effect of greatly lowering the number of children that are abused yearly by parents, but because it protects all reproductive rights, including my right to choose to give birth at home with a midwife.
7. My children aren’t school age yet, but whether we choose public school, private school, or home school, I’m thankful for the public school system and that we have choices when it comes to our children’s education. Waldorf? Charter? Montessori? The neighborhood public school? Private? We get to choose. And I’m thankful for all the people who commit their lives to serving children.
8. Parks and playgrounds. I was grateful for the national and city parks before I had children, simply because of how much they improve the air quality and our quality of life, but after children, I am especially thankful for city parks and playgrounds. With an active preschooler, I think my sanity and his happiness depends on our daily walks to the park and time spent at the parks and playgrounds. He gets his exercise and to play with other kids. I get to play with him or meet other parents. The park is one of the first places children get to experience community, and it’s a benefit that’s available to all children.
9. Museums, public libraries and the arts. I’m an addict. And I’m raising my children to be addicts too. Yesterday my son begged to be taken to the Children’s museum, and while we didn’t have time (he instead spent his afternoon rolling down a hill in a park with his dad), it made my heart sing every time he asked.
10. The Internet. As a parent who’s still relatively new to the city I live in, I am thankful for the wealth of resources available every time I open my computer. Within minutes, I can find kid friendly events happening in the city, where to take kids apple picking, or directions to a new friend’s house. I can also instantly research tips for flying with children, order groceries, put library books on hold, or contact my favorite mom friends who are spread out across the globe. I feel slightly shallow saying it, but I think the Internet makes parenting easier for my generation than it was for my parents.
And you? What are the things you're thankful for as a parent?