A few years ago an editor I know asked me to write a few words about why I’m grateful for my kids.
I had a few things to say.
We’re approaching the season of gratitude right now, after all, so it’s the perfect time to recall why I said what I said — and why the sentiments I wrote then are even doubly true now, just a few short years later.
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Here in the northeast, the leaves are changing into a brilliant array of colors, the acorns are dropping with haste, the air is cooler and the fall season is upon us — and I think of what lies ahead: Thanksgiving, Christmas, a sparkling New Year soon.
So it’s a great time to pause for a few moments and reflect on life’s blessings, even as the days remain packed with plentiful tasks that define our days and occupy our nights — duties, responsibilities, goals, chores and more.
Here’s some of what I wrote, plus a few new thoughts.
Grateful is an interesting word.
What are most people grateful for? A roof over their heads. Food in their bellies. Good health. Money to pay the bills. Friends to enjoy. A job.
Push it — and you could be talking about a car, a lawn, a deck, an iPhone, a laptop, a vacation to a warm and stunning place with clear blue water, and so much more.
But “grateful” for my children?
That word doesn’t begin to capture the way I feel about my dear loved ones.
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Let’s talk about a love so life-changing you couldn’t grasp that it existed before. And once you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine how you ever walked the face of the Earth without it.
Maybe you were, back then, on the way to being the person you would become. Maybe you were a piece of yourself, an inkling of what you were to become, a speck, a fleck — someone in development.
Maybe it was just, you know — inhale, exhale, live your days as an individual but still a non-parent.
Not that you didn’t get some good things done. You did.
You’re proud of all that you accomplished, and experienced, and learned, and produced.
But it was different.
Let’s talk about pride — pride when my children achieved and still achieve each new milestone in their lives, when I saw them flourish in school or on the field or on the stage, when I saw them show toughness when they needed to, kindness when it was called for, consideration to complete strangers when it was the best move to make, or thoughtfulness when was least expected but most appreciated.
Let’s talk about happiness — at the way their smiles cheer my heart, or their joy makes me laugh, or their presence in the room makes me feel the world is a better place just because they’re standing there, occupying that space.
“Are you good?” I texted one of them one night when he was at a friend’s house, using our shorthand for: how are things, how is the night going, are you in a safe place and is all well in your world at this moment in time.
This son had just begun driving at that time — so, you know, the question was loaded.
“I’m good, Ma,” he texted back a few minutes later.
And because he immediately understood what I was asking, sensed the depth of how I needed to know how he was — my heart was warmed.
“Tell me about your Earth Science test,” I said to my other teenaged son one night after dinner, face to face.
He said he did well — scored in the 90s — and as he shared the details, talked about how hard the test was, how much he worked through some of the problems, I could see his sense of accomplishment.
I told him I was proud he tried so hard, that he hung in there.
And we stayed there together for awhile, enjoying the moment, lingering, not letting it go.
Give children what they need to thrive and they will grow, and change, and charge through the world — moving up and away a bit and then circling back, God willing, where you’ll be waiting as their loving, caring parent, always curious about them, always welcoming, always loving, always willing to help work through something, to talk, to share, to advise, to listen.
As long as these two guys want me there, I’ll never leave their sides.
I know this about my two stepsons, too — my first children in life but both young men now, gorgeous and strong and smart and accomplished.
This fall and every fall, life is richer, happier, more serene and more complete because of my children.
That word “grateful” — it just tries so hard.
It’s a word inadequate to describe how I feel toward my kids.
It touches the surface but doesn’t go far enough.
Here’s what’s true.
Love and pride and overflowing, earth-shattering joy in this mother’s heart trump “gratitude” any day of the week.
What are you grateful for this fall? Share your own feelings below.