A couple years ago at bedtime I asked Sonny and Ace our customary question: “What would you like to tell God you’re thankful for tonight?” Ace, then three years old, spoke up promptly: “Well. If you would buy me skates, I could tell God I’m thankful for those.”
Later, I laughed with J as we shook our heads. Such naïve bluntness! All those toys, and he wanted more! He was only one pair of skates away from happiness. Leave it to a three-year-old, right?
Or not. Despite my laughter I recognized that Ace’s “hint” reflected my own habits: of sidestepping thanks in deference to longing for something else. Of believing that one elusive missing piece would seal my contentment. Of allowing my desire for just one more thing to loom larger than the recognition of what I already have.
I would be thankful if I could avoid interruptions.
I would be thankful if my kids made a habit of behaving in ways that made me look like a competent mother. Oh, and if they would stop arguing. And stop bellowing.
I would be thankful if everyone followed my plans. They’re such sensible plans, after all!
I would be thankful if my kids didn’t have sore throats.
I would be thankful if I were not perpetually behind on the laundry.
I would be thankful if everyone around me could just relax. Then I could relax, too. (Everyone else needs to go first, though.)
I would be thankful if I heard more positive statements than negative ones. Then I could be more positive, too. (Everyone else needs to go first, though.)
And so on.
Sometimes these ifs come to fruition, and sometimes I am fleetingly thankful, but more often I quickly accept these gifts as my due. It’s easy to acclimate to what one has, after all. Also, as Sonny gently explained recently (in a context that I no longer recall), “Mom. You know, you do forget things.”
Bless his forthright little heart. He’s right. I forget things, not the least of which is to be thankful.
I forget that those close calls could easily have gone other ways—tragic, unthinkable ways.
And that most of the time, the people who interrupt me are the ones whom I love the most and that any time with them is worthwhile.
And that having too much laundry means that we have more clothes than we need.
And that most of my problems are also of the first-world variety.
And that my fighting, bellowing kids are also funny, loving, loyal, helpful, good-hearted kids.
And that many parents long to exchange their kids’ diagnoses for one as mundane as a sore throat.
And that it shouldn’t take someone else’s tragedy to stun me into gratitude for what I have.
I forget that there’s no “if” in thanksgiving.
“O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”- William Shakespeare, Henry VI
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!