Being Grateful for My Kids, In Different Ways

photo 3 (5) editedEvery day since my daughter Josie was born, nearly 15 months ago, I have felt deeply grateful for her. This is more than just regular gratitude, but an appreciation that permeates my mind and body and that renews my soul. My girl is a true gift – a joyful, clever, playful, and affectionate blessing on my life.

Josie came to me after a few years of trying, and several miscarriages. After we suffered shocking heartache, then false hope, followed by more heartache, finally Josie came into our lives without one hitch, and finally everything made sense. I have no doubt that she was meant to exist, which means that my losses were meant to be, too, each part of the journey to having Clara complete our family.

Josie has changed me effortlessly with her love, molded me into a better person just by being present with me, laughing with me, loving me. It overwhelms me with happy thoughts to know that I can carry her love in my heart for the rest of my days on Earth.

I am grateful for both my children, of course, although that feeling can be hard to find my five-year-old Max is pushing my 642nd button.

One of the ways I want to improve myself as a parent – and person – is to find that feeling of gratitude, even when we are wading in difficult parenting waters and I am frantic enough to use any tool to get the screeching, course-wrecking tantrum to stop.

Max is striving to find his power, sometimes fighting wildly for it, while still clinging to his dependence on me and his dad. Add to this emotional whirlwind his temporary yet understandable feelings of resentment toward his ray-of-sunshine baby sister, who basks in our constant adoration while he is sometimes banished to his room until he gets control over his body.

Sometimes his sensitive soul feels unloved, and my soul aches for him. He has my heart in such a different way than his sister, and I need to work daily to remind myself to show him my love in loud and bold and repetitive ways so that he doesn’t forget how much he is loved, for all that he is, and will be.

Returning to the notion of gratitude, I feel grateful for Max in a different way. He too is a blessing who has molded me into a better person, but our rockier path has been like a boot camp for me. He is constantly teaching me the lessons I need to learn.

When I grow impatient with him, I need to remind myself that it’s because I see myself reflected in him, and it bothers me to see all the work I have left to do on myself. To work on loving him the way he is, I must also work on loving myself the way I am. I have to let go of my tendencies to judge myself (and others) harshly and be overly critical and impatient. I must let go of those bad habits if I ever hope to teach my son better ones.

So, my two versions of gratitude, Max and Josie. They’re the ones that make this life I am living worthwhile, the ones that keep me getting up every morning (even when I’ve had little sleep) so I can do my absolute best at nourishing and nurturing these precious little souls.


The Anxiety I Live With

I am a worrier. I worry about death, how it could be lurking around the corner, ready to grab me at any instant, even though I wouldn’t be “ready” and it wouldn’t be fair to my kids. When I am not dwelling on how I could perish on any given day, and without any warning, I feel gripped with fear about a distant point in the future when I will be old and more familiar with death as I watch the people around me die, including my husband.

Why don’t people talk about this more? Am I more scared – or more obsessed – than other people? My husband listens to me patiently, but he thinks I “need help.” I think what bothers me most is the powerlessness of it all. No matter how well I plan or analyze or live well, I can’t stop what’s going to happen. Loss of loved ones, loss of memory, loss of self, loss of everything I once had.

The only thing I fear more than my own death is the (hopefully) remote possibility that one of my children will die before me. I am such a sensitive person, so introspective, that somehow I can feel a hint of this hypothetical sadness just by imagining it. I can’t imagine how anyone could cope with such a horrifying loss.

Of course, anxiety is hard to live with. I rarely feel truly relaxed because it is in the still moments of the night when I have the time to reflect on the fleeting nature of everything.

But I think anxiety has also made me more mindful. I enjoy each day with my children, each night I lie beside my husband, because I know those moments are finite.

We won’t always be together, thanks to the permanence and inevitability of death. But we are together today, and I am going to focus on making the best life I can for my family and myself. Fear be damned!