This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
Well, the first day is kicking off on the second, but I hope you’ll forgive me for being a day late!
I realize that not everyone has children and that sadly, there are people who long for children who cannot have them. My heart goes out to you. Please know that I am not intending to leave you out on day one. The fact is, today is my oldest daughter’s eighth birthday. For me, personally, it’s a reminder to give thanks for her and each of my children, both the ones who are alive and the one who is not with us.
Whether you have children or not, you can be thankful for what children teach us about God, parenting, innocence and love.
Why am I thankful for my children?
I am thankful for the insight they have given me about God. In the book of Hosea, the prophet takes a prostitute for a wife and personally and intimately discovers the pain of rejection and infidelity. In like manner, being a parent gives us an intimate glimpse into how God looks on us as our Father. Raising and training children has taught me the joys and heartaches of what God feels when we disobey, reject, stumble, or conversely obey, praise and give thanks.
I am thankful for the humility they’ve taught me. As I mention earlier, my oldest daughter turned eight today. When we learned that we expecting again, there was so much fear and joy. We had lost our first child in what the doctor’s refer to as “a common miscarriage.” There was a gnawing fear that we would lose this one too. She came into the world one year after the day on which the doctor had pronounced that we had miscarried our first baby. She was (and still is) a gift from the Lord.
All that being said, she has been the most challenging of our three children, testing us at every turn, thrashing our ideal picture of parenting and crushing many of our theories on how to raise children. She has reinforced some of our theories, but not all. There have been many tear-filled days and nights, many prayers of “why” and “what do I do?” and earnest pleas to the Lord for more wisdom. It’s only been within the last few years that we discovered that she had a neurological disorder. We’ve been treating the disorder and things are improving, but for a very long time, we agonized over her. We felt we were failing as parents. The whole ordeal endowed us with unasked for humility.
When I was young and knew it all, I would observe children misbehaving and think or say, “my kids will never do [fill in the blank].”
Famous last words.
You seasoned parents laugh away, because you know what I’m talking about. I think we’ve all verbalized or thought something similar only to have our kids completely demolish our preconceived ideas.
To all you new parents, just remember that your children are not robots and you have to train them. They will not always conform readily to your training no matter how diligent, consistent or persistent you are. It may turn into a battle.
Prepare to be humbled.
I am thankful for the humility because it has given me greater compassion towards all parents. I am not so quick to mentally criticize because I know how unpredictable kids can be! I also approach situations with more caution and care because I don’t always “know it all.” Everyday I ask God for wisdom because I know I don’t have it all figured out!
I am thankful for the inconveniences.
Piles of laundry.
I remember one day, after the floor was freshly mopped, my kids came running in from their play outside. The concrete outside was covered in chalk drawings and my shiny wood floor was now covered in chalky footprints (and paw prints). I groaned with irritation—“As if we don’t have enough to do! I’ve got to clean this again!” But as I looked down at that small little chalk footprint I realized something. Just like the chalk will fade away, so will the size of that sweet little foot and the joyful belly laugh that came through with it.
These days are fleeting. They will be gone before I know it.
Instead of grumbling about the added work, I need to give thanks for what those little inconveniences mean. I need to appreciate these moments while I have them. That chalky footprint means that I have little children who love to play outside, don’t mind running barefoot in the summer, and overflow with joy and laughter. It means that I have children present in my home—what a blessing they are! Forget about that chalky mess, chase down those littles, snuggle up on the couch and listen to them tell you about their dreams from last night or their escapades from today. Take them out for a special treat. Draw on the concrete with them. Read them their favorite book (or yours!)
I am thankful for the bad days—they teach me more appreciative for the good ones.
It could be that you and your child are constantly at odds with each other. Take time at night to walk into their room after they’ve fallen asleep. All the issues of the day will have dissipated from their face and you will again see the little child that has touched your heart so deeply. Pray for them and pray for wisdom.
Be thankful for kids you mentor. It could be you do not have children of your own, but you can be part of the lives of other children. I had great mentors who were the same age as my parents that took me to the symphony or on camping trips with other kids or just let me tag along in a group. They were like aunts and uncles to me and such a blessing to my life. Don’t allow what you lack to blind you to the needs of others.
30 Days of Giving Thanks with the kids
Before I end this post, I want to share what we are doing in our home to encourage our kids to think more about thankfulness. I’m sure some really creative moms and dads can come up with something way more aesthetic and clever, but Martha Stewart doesn’t live at our house. Simple is the game around here.
This morning, the kids started their “Thankfulness Books.” They cut out leaves and found some pictures and got started. Each day, they’ll write what they’re thankful for on a leaf and place it in their book along with a picture and/or why they are thankful for that particular person or thing. They also copied their new memory verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5.18. (Unfortunately, the musical version of this verse is set to the tune of jingle bells…)
Today, my two youngest kids picked out their dog, Sadie.
It’s meant to be a simple daily activity that doesn’t take more than a few minutes.
What are you thankful for today? What ideas can you share for teaching your kids about thankfulness and gratitude?
Please leave a comment below and share your ideas!