As November started, I decided to start having a nightly gratitude session with my little ones. Each night, we would each share three things we were grateful for. I thought this was such a great idea, and I could teach my little ones the power of gratitude. It was going really well for two whole days. Then came day three. I began by saying, “Who wants to share what they were grateful for today?” My oldest daughter, said, “Mommy? How about we share three things we are grateful for and three things we are NOT grateful for.” My instinct was to immediately put the kibosh on that idea, but something inside said, “Wait. Give this a chance. Let’s see what happens.”
So instead, I agreed. That night we went around and I learned some things about my both my daughters’ days. I learned there was a little girl at school that was not being nice, and another girl that kept writing on her papers. We were able to discuss what to do about it. I also learned there was another moment where a girl at school was hurt, and my little one was worried about her friend. They weren’t grateful for those things at the time, but after we talked about them, they were able to come up with ways to cope and know what to do net time.
We then shared what we were grateful for.
I learned that a 3-minute snuggle 12 hours earlier was important to my little one. I learned that having a friend stand up for them at school was important. And, of course, chocolate was important. Oh, the power of chocolate. Who would’ve guessed?
I was able to remind my girls to look at those things that are good, even when all things hadn’t gone well. Isn’t that how nearly every day is anyway? We all experience a combination of good and bad. After we feel heard by someone we love and trust, we can do the work of gratitude by expressing thankfulness for those things we have been given.
As my oldest little one said her prayer that night, I heard her small voice ask God to help her friend to be okay, to help the girl at school be nice, and to NOT let that girl write on her paper anymore.
And, my momma’s heart was reminded of an important truth: you can’t have gratitude without learning and knowing what gratitude is not.
Gratitude is never perfect. It is not something that comes easy. Gratitude is not only sunny days and smiles. Gratitude is not something that we are handed on a silver platter.
We can choose to be grateful on bad days, rainy and sad. We can choose gratitude even when a friend isn’t kind or a knee gets scraped. Because gratitude is not dependent on a perfect life or ideal situation.
You see, gratitude has great power, and the process of searching for what you are grateful for changes the brain in a positive way, even if you come up empty handed. But, we also need a safe place to talk about those things that we are struggling with, that we are worried about, without fear or worry of judgment and reprisal.
Gratitude is a choice we make everyday: an inner choice to love where you are right here and now, even in the midst of struggle and strife. It is a gift to oneself of love and thankfulness for life itself.
Because, without gratitude, we may all feel hopeless. As a matter of fact, a few of the most grateful people I know have been through the most harrowing experiences. Because they know how tenuous and difficult life is, they seek and find joy and gratitude in it daily.
This is a month where we can all be reminded of the power of gratitude. I am grateful for so many things in my life. And, I have learned, that sometimes I need to look at life through the eyes of a child. Chocolate. A snuggle. Those things fill our hearts. And even though I am so imperfect in my practice of gratitude, I keep trying. I know those attempts change me for the better.
Happy November! I hope you all can experience the joy that gratitude brings this season. What are you grateful for today?