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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gratitude

My youngest son recently turned 8. I remember turning 8. It was my "golden birthday" - when you turn as old as the date of your birthday. We were in Africa, so Mom had had to figure out two years in advance what her 8-year-old daughter might like and pack that into barrels to ship out to the bush of Africa. I got blue and yellow roller skates that year, and it was the best gift ever. My darling husband asked with loving sarcasm in his voice "Where did you roller skate if you didn't have paved roads or sidewalks?" I'll have you know that we had roller skating parties in the Bible School where my dad taught students who would become pastors. Mr. Smarty Pants. The missionary kids would gather once in a while and skate together in the big room with a cement floor, tables pushed to the side of the room. I don't think we did it very often, but I remember it being the most fun ever.

As my kids pass different milestones, it brings back memories of my own childhood at that stage. When my twins turned 7, I realized how small I was when I had to go to boarding school. Now that they are 11, I realize how independent I had to be, and how good at it I was much of the time. Sometimes I hold my kids to a higher-than-necessary standard because of who I had to be during my own childhood. Since I wasn't with my parents except every other week for a weekend, I never got help with my homework! I didn't have a computer because we didn't have electricity all the time! I didn't have someone holding my hand through life the way I do for my boys. Which is also why I do all those things for them. I'm glad I can provide a constant source of support for them like I didn't have all the time.

When I'm frustrated thinking about all the things I had to do on my own at my kids' ages, I try to remember that they are completely different beings than I am. They live in a different world, they have different challenges, they have a totally different experience living life than I did growing up. They have access to anything and everything they could ever imagine wanting or needing. They have 800 types of shampoo to choose from at the store. They can get anything they want to eat at any time. They know things about computers I will never understand. They ride escalators like it's no big deal, and tell me with sweet concern "Mama, I'll hold your hand because I know you're scared of escalators." 

I try not to judge my kids based on my own childhood. My own childhood was unique and amazing and gave me so many gifts that have made me who I am today, and I am very grateful for those experiences. I'm worried whenever our kids have a present-recieving holiday that they will be disappointed with what they get, that they will want more, bigger, better things. But they always surprise me and are very grateful for the things they get. On Aidan's birthday he was overjoyed to get the gifts he got. He was thrilled with the little Minecraft cake I made for him. He was grateful. It puts a smile in my heart knowing that my children know the feeling of gratitude and contentment. 

We fight a lot of battles every day in our home. Sometimes World War III erupts because Daddy asked a boy to put a container back in the fridge. Sometimes we have meltdowns because a boy doesn't want to brush his teeth, or walk back upstairs to get his socks. Most days there is at least one boy trying to get out of going to school, wanting to stay home because of anxiety. Pretty much every single thing that the kids have to get done every day has the potential to be a huge battle. Every thing. From getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed to taking a shower or bath to doing homework to getting in the car or getting out of the car to having to wear a coat in winter...

When you fight battles all day every day, you tend to get worn out. You have to find ways to stay fresh, joyful, strong. You have to find ways to take care of yourself. I hate it when people ask if I'm taking care of myself. I guess it's because I know I'm supposed to do that, but often there is just no time or I just don't have the energy. Sometimes I'm good at taking care of myself, and sometimes I'm not. I just do my best. I try to do the best I can to take care of my kids and my marriage and myself. I'm human, so sometimes I'm not very good at these things. Sometimes I totally rock at them. It just depends on a lot of factors.

It's good to remember that when it really matters, my kids know how to be grateful for the blessings they have. They know how to be kind to others. They know how to be compassionate. I try to remember these fantastic qualities my children have when I'm battling yet another fight about eating dinner when it's dinner time or putting on pj's to get ready for bed. In the big picture of life, I hope my kids have the skills they need to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted people. Every milestone my kids hit, I am reminded of my childhood and how different my kids' lives are from mine. But some things stay the same because my kids are part of Alex and me, and we are content and grateful for what we have. Hopefully our kids will always be able to see the blessings they have in life too.







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