On the eleventh day of Christmas, my six year old gave to me, a day with no ugly tantrums. Oof. It has been a long few weeks with this little guy. Too much sugar, not enough sleep, excitement over the many holiday celebrations, having a cold, houseguests and an irregular schedule--all of this lead to one unhappy kid, and a pretty unhappy mama, too. But even throughout all of that, we kept one nightly ritual going: "Mama, what are your grateful things?"
Even if I am drowsy and ready to sleep (which happens when this mama of 5 gets horizontal), he always reminds me to end my day with gratitude. And the experts are right. It works. It's the thing that makes it all better. Taking just a moment or two out of my day to speak the things I am grateful for holds its own magic.
"Gratitude Unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity." -- Melody Beattie
There have been many times over the past year that I have been conscious of the importance of this simple practice I started with my kids, years ago. Last January 8th, we got a 60 day notice on the house we were renting. Our beautiful dream rental in the woods. My husband had been out of work and looking for a few months. I was pregnant with baby #5, and feeling very crappy most days. "Mama, don't forget your grateful things," his tired little voice said. Oh yeah. Breathe in and breathe out, Mama. Find your gratitude. "I'm grateful that we got to have Christmas at this house." "I'm grateful we're not going to be moving when I'm way more pregnant."
And when things got a little tougher, and I was more pregnant, and the move was looming before us, sometimes I'd pause and he went first. Always, "I'm grateful for you, Mama." Bam. Thank you little big guy. Now I don't have any trouble at all thinking of something. "I'm grateful for you, too. And also, a warm house, and generous friends and relatives who are helping us to be able to move into a nice house, and family who is doing the actual moving. Oh and I'm still glad I'm not more pregnant than I am right now." Each night it's the same. And then we both start a flood of gratitude for little and big things, constant and changing things, tangibles and intangibles.
There are so many things to be grateful for this year. Right now, the top of the list is that my husband DID get a job. We had a perfectly safe and wonderful home birth, and our baby is about the most happy and sweet thing ever. Before and after he was born, friends and family truly showered us with gifts, and meals and gift cards and love. And in the months after he was born, I was so grateful to have his happy sweetness, because the job search went on for longer than either of us ever expected it would. I was on the phone with my brother one night, moaning a bit, because I can with him, and feeling so lame for 'just being a mom' and having no skills AND a newborn which felt like a heavy burden at that moment. And he reminded me how bleak that time would seem WITHOUT a sweet and happy bundle of joy. Yep, even though I never ever expected to be mama to five, I am so grateful I am, and that he came when he did, even if it seemed like crazy timing to both of his parents.
Friends that I don't even know that well came from every corner to offer help of all sorts: money, food, school supplies, and love. We are still basking in that glow of help, and my greatest hope is that we can pay some of that forward in this year.
On Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, or Little Christmas, which has so many lovely traditions from all over the world, Forest wanted to 'make a party' So, we did. We made a Kings Cake, with a wonky recipe that turned out weird for the second time (note to self: get new recipe.) Eleanor became our Queen, and fearlessly led us into what we're gonna call the parlor to play Christmas music together. We make a rather raucous sextet: a cello, a violin, a flute, an oboe, a conductor/piano player/percussionist, and a jingle bells only baby percussionist. Robert bounced the baby so he wouldn't get scared of all of the 'music'. It was with a full heart that I wore out my lips playing oboe rather badly. My husband, the giver of that beautiful oboe, so long ago, requested "Stairway to Heaven" as the final piece of the evening. I played it with gratitude, knowing how close we'd come to having to turn the oboe into cash.
Thank You. Thank you to my friends and family for holding us in prayer and thoughts throughout this year, and all of the 10,000 little things that you did to support us. Thank you to my children for being mostly easy to get along with. Thank you to my husband for keeping on keeping on and remaining an excellent partner and father. Thank you to the Divine for this life of wonder. It is a true gift to feel grateful.