My kids are fifteen months apart. All they’ve known is being with each other, occupying the same space, having a constant companion. My daughter’s like my husband — logical, introverted, often craving space to herself so she can read or play unbothered. My son, on the other hand, is like me — affectionate, empathetic, always craving company and someone to play with. When they’re apart, they miss each other, wondering what the other is up to, what things they might be missing out on that the other is doing. They play well and fight well; it’s a “can’t live with or without each other” situation.
After separate playdates yesterday, I picked them up, and less than five minutes into the car ride home, they start arguing, their tones twisting into whines and their voices rising in volume and sass. I have no patience for this; they’ve been whining since they woke up that morning. So I yell,
“YOU’RE ALREADY FIGHTING?! YOU’VE ONLY BEEN TOGETHER FOR FIVE MINUTES! I’VE HAD ENOUGH TODAY! NO ONE CAN TALK UNTIL WE GET HOME!”
They scrunch their faces at me in frustration, but I don’t relent. We all need a timeout to take a breather, to let our emotions simmer down. Their last whines fade out, and as we drive the rest of the way home in silence, my anger subsides. I recognize my overreaction, and I remember the conversation my husband and I had about how it seems that every podcast or sermon or health tip we listen to these days talks about practicing gratitude.
Am I grateful or do I whine just like the kids do? Am I grateful for them? If they’re gifts from God, how do I practice gratitude when I’ve lost my patience and am beyond annoyed, when I’ve just yelled at them, when they don’t behave as I wish they would?
I check my heart and see the rigidity of my posture. When provoked, I often stand on a soapbox of my own righteousness and lord it over my kids, my finger wagging, my tone condescending. I feel entitled to them conforming to my ways, for them to obey me the first time every single time, for them to play well with each other and be happy and grateful.
Though I do want them to learn to listen, to respect me and each other, my expectations for their behavior is unrealistic. I’m asking for robots instead of children who need grace and reminders. And am I not also a child who needs the same things from the Father?
I’m not that much different than my kids: I also need to try again, to use my words nicely, to say sorry and ask for forgiveness. So I get off my soapbox and relax my stance. I look into the rearview mirror and see their faces, obediently quiet. I can tell they’re ready to be silly again, and I’m grateful their spirits haven’t been broken.Our postures determine our attitudes, and I’m understanding more why so many people across the spectrum are talking about practicing gratitude.
Gratitude changes our posture, and practicing gratitude means we must slow down our minds and our hearts to remember, recount, and recognize what we have to be grateful for. It helps us to make mental and emotional shifts throughout the day when it’s not going well, and it grounds us and gives us a better perspective.
Today has been much like yesterday, with the same arguments and whining, but my posture is softer, my heart more open. I’m running through the things I’m grateful for, and this is what I know:
I’m thankful for my kids, whom I get to raise and love and who make me proud and make me laugh. I’m thankful for second chances throughout the day, so we don’t have to be stuck in bad attitudes and crabby moods. I’m thankful for my husband, who has started asking us what we’re grateful for at the end of each day, a way to recalibrate and center us back to what’s most important. I’m thankful for the quiet hours of the night when I get to work, for the work I get to do, and for the rest I get to relish at the end of the day.
I’m thankful for the depth yet simplicity of living out our faith and for Jesus who walked the way ahead of us. I’m thankful that we are being constantly broken and reshaped into the mold of Christ. All is grace in Him, and all thanks be to Him.