There are few things that get my heart wound so tightly that I can barely breathe for being so overcome with joy than to hear my son rave about how wonderful his day has been.
Especially when I have been able to be a part of it.
Today was one of those days.
In true holiday fashion, we raced around trying to clean the house before company (in this case my parents, my in-laws, and my husband’s uncle and his family) descended upon us.
Unlike other days when my now-six-year-old would generally “supervise” and occasionally get underfoot, he volunteered to help, first by dusting and then by cleaning the windows. (Can I just say that this may be the coolest part of my day? I *hate* to clean windows…)
As people (and food) arrived, my son was happy to show them around, explain which cats were friendly and which one in particular to avoid, play nicely with the kids, and even sample most of the dishes at dinner.
All with a smile.
That couldn’t have made a mother more proud.
He positioned himself on the floor in the living room after the last of the visitors left and exclaimed that this was “the BEST Thanksgiving EVER!”
Granted, he was allowed to stay up a little later than normal to finish watching the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka (one of his favorite chapter books of all time), proclaimed it to be the better version, and then got frustrated when I told him it was time for bed.
He stomped back to his room and told me without turning his back that I had, in fact, turned this into “the WORST night EVER!” – the stomping of his feet to emphasize each syllable.
First, I recognized that he took my BEST ____ EVER from me. But how quickly his brain turned it around to its polar opposite.
It was time for A Talk.
Because clearly he did not have anything to be thankful for at all. No pets. (We have a guinea pig, two geriatric goldfish, a dog, and three cats.) No toys. (He has a whole room full of them downstairs keeping my poor lonely treadmill company.) No parents who love him. (His father and I are still over the moon that we have been blessed enough to be parents…even in the middle of fits like these.)
I didn’t have to go any farther in the list. He knew where I was going.
I don’t think six-year-old boys are the only ones who fall into this pit of despair the first time things don’t go our way. It’s easy to get frustrated and lose sight of all of the good stuff that happens when something doesn’t meet our expectations.
Still, focusing on the positives in our lives – by being grateful – can have an incredibly positive influence on us.
All of this thinking lead me to some thoughts about psychology studies on the study of gratitude. A little digging around on the web led me to this UC Davis site. Here they list all of the studies that have been done and have demonstrated the benefits of practicing grateful thinking. The highlights include subjects reporting that they had exercised more, been more helpful to others, feeling more optimistic, and making progress towards goals.
Being grateful should be enough, but if you need selling on the WHY, then there you go.
I sure know I could use more practice.
I know how blessed I am today because I have consciously thought about how my husband and I have careers, how fortunate I am to have a career I enjoy so much, how my son (and my husband and I!) are so lucky to have his grandparents so involved in his life, how we have a home, heat, food, how we have library cards and more books available than we can read in a lifetime of reading, how we have such dear friends both near and far that help us do and be our very best.
But tomorrow isn’t Thanksgiving anymore.
And thinking like this will take more of a conscious effort.
But I think it’s time I start to take it.
Not only for myself, but for my son.