Reflective Gratitude

Parents, do you ever look back at photos from a year ago and think, what the hell happened? Growth via a timeline is palpable. As my big girl gets ready to help make the centerpieces and cook all the things alongside me, I am struck by what a difference a year makes. Here’s something I wrote a year ago. Never forget the why.

Thanksgiving a la Two Year Old: Why?

It’s here. Before I had purchased our pumpkin I spotted signs of its impending arrival in the aisle of a local pharmacy. It seems to secure a spot earlier each year, almost threatening to overtake Halloween yet sidelined by the insecurity of an early reception. However, after November 1st it makes no apologies. Alas, the holiday season has arrived.

Disclaimer: I love the holidays. And while I confess to already humming a carol or two, I also need to admit that this year I’m determined to give Turkey Day its fair due. Thanksgiving, you’re underrated. I’d like to apologize for not giving you the proper R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the past, but I still can’t claim the food as my favorite component of the day. In fact, I could care less about the meal. However, I’m all in for gratitude.

A couple of years into this parenting gig I have a newfound appreciation and joy affiliated with most holidays. The marriage of innocence and discovery is simply too much fun to pass up. Add a few bows and holiday apparel to the mix and I’m mush. Trust me, I know it’s all surface stuff. But that surface stuff can make us dig deeper, which is exactly what’s happened to me with Thanksgiving.

Somewhere in between a Turkey t-shirt and a cornucopia, I grasped onto gratitude and adjusted my “I am thankful for” mantra to emphasize more.

It starts with my two year old. Here’s the thing, we’re still working on manners. Gratitude is a tough concept for toddlers to grasp, which makes it even more challenging to teach.

I’m not an expert. In fact, I’m so novice when it comes to parenting that I generally celebrate the fact that everyone is bathed and in clean clothes (which usually come directly from the hamper as opposed to the dresser drawer).

Recently, my two year old delivered me a slice of humble pie that encapsulates the holiday spirit and acts as a gateway to gratitude so I thought I’d share.

The other day I attempted to explain the basics of Thanksgiving on a car ride. It was as simple as I could possibly make it. I made no mention of Pilgrims, Indians, or a feast, but opted for a route focused on "thank you."

"We say thank you for what we have and for the people in our lives." I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw her smile. "Mommy is thankful for you. What do you want to say you're thankful for?"

"Mommy, I'm hungry." Sigh. I persist.

"Are you thankful for food?" She looks out the window disinterested.

"Mommy, I want apples." Double sigh.

"Mommy is thankful for apples."

"Mommy, I need crackers."  I groan.

"I am thankful for crackers." She catches my eye and is unimpressed.

"Mommy, please play my songs." I'm about to surrender but go for gold with my last ditch effort.

"I love these songs. They make me happy. I'm thankful for happiness. I like being happy." She wiggles her body for a moment and then signals all business by folding her hands in her lap.

"Why?" Suddenly the most popular question in our household surfaces.  The why question.

Usually, the why question is unnerving because it is unending. However, on this car ride, I’m eager for the circling conversation. Like a typical toddler, she wants to know more. Touché my dear daughter, we should all be so inquisitive. So we rode on, talking about why I'm happy, which only added more  meaning to my "I am thankful for" list. The why behind the what became an instant sweet spot.

As we gear up for holiday happenings, focus on the why. It’s the gravy of life.