Overflowing

What are the worst parts of parenting?

When my boys were little, I would have said lack of sleep, changing diapers, dealing with spit up, drooling, and teething. Of course there are tough parts of parenting as your kid grows that aren’t necessarily fun — setting rules, enforcing them, teaching things, getting your child to listen/care, your child getting upset with you or you with them — but while those times can be challenging, frustrating, maybe even painful, in our house, we always try to find the lesson on the other side.

One son clogged the toilet one evening. Definitely one of those things I’ve never enjoyed as a parent. 😊 He attempted to unclog it, only to fill the bowl to the brim on the verge of overflowing after several failed attempts. He went out to ask his father for help. My husband sprang into action and then started getting upset with my son for not knowing what to do (get water out of the toilet, transfer it to the bucket without spilling on the floor, get towels to clean up what spilled, etc.). My husband got frustrated with my son, and my son got upset with himself for not knowing what to do. I had gone to bed early and woke to several text messages from my son outlining what happened and the sadness he felt about what had happened and how the interaction with his father had went. I texted him back (while he was sleeping) reminding him that even though we might not always like what each other is doing, we always love each other, no matter what. I grabbed time with him once he was awake.

“How are you doing?” I asked. “Better,” he said, “Thanks for your message.” I sat him down and shared some insight with him. “You wouldn’t know this but as your parent our job is to teach you things, and when things happen where you or your brother don’t know what to do, it can feel like we, as your parents, have failed you. And that can feel bad. It doesn’t excuse behavior — if we get short-tempered, frustrated or maybe say things in anger. I want you to understand why your father might have reacted the way he did. We’ve never taught you and your brother how to unclog a toilet so there would be no way you would know how to do that. It’s something we need to teach you. Also, you might have been a bit embarrassed about clogging the toilet. Anyone would be. In the future, you don’t need to worry about that. If you’re in a situation and you try the fix and it seems to be making the problem worse, stop — give yourself time to think what to do next — ask for help, go online and look for tips and tricks, etc.” I took a breath. “Does that all make sense? You didn’t do anything wrong. These things happen and you’re reminding your father and I we have more teaching to do.” He gave me a hug, and headed off to school.

That afternoon my other son, who’d seen what happened said, “I have an idea. I think there are things you and dad should teach us. Maybe pick once a week, and show us how to do it.” “Do you have ideas for what you’d like us to teach you?,” I asked. “Yes,” he said, “unclogging a toilet, paying a bill, setting up an account, tying a tie.” I smiled, these were all great things we’d gladly teach our boys. I told him as much. He started a list when he got home, and his brother is adding to it.

Cleaning up after someone else can feel like the worst when it’s happening. But being able to understand each other better, and how we can help each other (our kids better understand my husband and I, and us better understanding what we need to teach our kids), has me overflowing with gratitude. Who knew a clogged toilet could lead to that?

What bad situation lead to something good for you and your child?

Who Do You Love?

What or who do you love?

My younger son can easily articulate what and who he loves. He says I love you to my husband and I without any discomfort, and for the most part is comfortable sharing his feelings openly and honestly with others. I think he is just wired this way. My oldest keeps his emotions close. He can come across as being quick to anger or unhappiness, but am now better understanding that it is his discomfort that is causing these emotional reactions.

I’m thinking of having my oldest keep a gratitude journal. Peggy Orenstein’s talk and my Head and Heart blog made me think this is one way we can help our son keep his head and heart connected. My hope is that by journaling he’ll grow to appreciate all the good things in his life, and that while disappoint and discomfort will happen there is a different way he can respond because he’ll remember he’s loved and has a lot of things to love in his life.

How does your child express their emotions? How are you helping them remember all that is positive in their life?

Grateful

What are you thankful for?

I practice being grateful daily. Not because I have to, but because I learned a long time ago I have a lot to be thankful for and when I acknowledge it, even in the littlest of moments, it makes me feel better.

I have worked to instill this practice in my sons. I point out the beauty around us, comment on our blessings (food on the table, warm beds to sleep in), and have taught them to give thanks for all the things in our lives at meals — it’s common for my boys to give thanks for what’s top-of-mind: they’ve given thanks for Lego, candy, napkins and anything in eyesight that catches their attention. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day.

We love Thanksgiving in our house, but thankfully it’s not the single time of year we pause to give thanks. I recently found an old art project one of my sons — a turkey’s body made by the shape of his hand. He colored the turkey, put a pilgrim hat on it and wrote the turkey saying, “Happy Thanksgiving!” (ironic, eh?). 🙂 I’m thankful I still have this piece of artwork, and the memories that come with it.

There is much to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

I will be off to celebrate the holidays with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving!

So Very Thankful

As Thanksgiving day arrives, and you reflect on the good things in your life, what comes to mind?

We have a practice in our home where at dinner, we say grace. It mainly consists of saying what we’re thankful for. It’s a daily tradition we all enjoy. For my boys, it’s an opportunity for them to share with us what’s top of mind (sometimes they are most thankful for what is in their field of vision — a napkin on the table, a food on their plate they are grateful is being served for dinner, or a toy or book left on the table. Other times its memories from the day — things like doing well on a math test, playing well in a game or playing with a friend), or what’s in their heart (sometimes they surprise us with the most amazing comments — thankful for people in their lives, or for nature, or acts of kindness they witnessed from others). For my husband and I, it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re grateful for, and keeps what we consider blessings–healthy kids, our own health, good friends and family who care about us, jobs and a safe, warm place to rest our heads each night–front and center.  There is much to be thankful for, and it feels really good acknowledging it every day.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time of year we remember what we are thankful for. It’s a day with friends and family, where you appreciate all the good things in your life. It’s special and I’m thankful for it.

What practices of gratitude do you and your family practice? What makes your Thanksgiving special?

I’ll be spending time with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thankful with a side of Gratitude

Each Thanksgiving before the meal we say a prayer of thanks, sometimes going around the circle and having each person share something they are grateful for. While we make a point to do this on Thanksgiving, we also work to carry on the tradition throughout the year. Being grateful for what we have, the people in our lives, the joys and beauties we are allowed to experience, and addressing it in the moment, just feels good.

I was asked to write a letter for a girlfriend’s daughter for a retreat she is attending. I have known this young woman since she was born and have watched her grow into an amazing teen. In the letter I was asked to include memories, thoughts and feelings. It was an easy letter to write. When my friend’s daughter was young I joined her family for dinner. Her mom and dad were there, along with me. We started by saying grace. At the end of the prayer, she added what she was thankful for. She said, “Ms. Tricia, I love you.” It melted my heart. It was so precious. She looked earnestly at her mom and said, “Mom, I love you.” Then looked at her dad and said, “Dad, I love you.” She had us all in the palm of her hand. She took a deep breath, turned back to some candles that were on the table, and said, “Candles, I love you.” She then looked at her plate and continued, “Chicken nuggets, I love you.” My friend, her husband and I burst into tears laughing. Being put into the same category as candles and chicken nuggets was humbling, and hilarious.  What I remember most from that experience was the innocence of my friend’s daughter. She believed in what she was saying. She was truly grateful for the things before her…people, candles and all. It reminded me that we can find gratitude in anything and everything around us, and there is no point in putting gratitude off when it’s starring you in the face.

How do you give thanks? How do you show gratitude? Happy Thanksgiving.

I’ll be enjoying some time off with family and will be back in early December.