As featured in The Reflector:
At this time of year, people’s expressions of gratitude seem to increase a hundredfold. I’ve always wondered why they don’t feel gratitude to that extent in months besides November, but I’ve also been happy to see that so many people are still aware of the richness of their blessings.
I feel like I have an abundance of things to be grateful for. I typically do a good job of expressing that gratitude, whether through words or actions. I can’t think of a moment when I haven’t been grateful for my motherhood, in particular. And as everyone knows, I’m pretty vocal about it.
However, something happened this last week which has made me grateful for it in a completely different way. I learned something profound about gratitude. And it’s not that the concept is entirely new to me, but I’d never seen it in this light.
I woke up just after midnight Sunday morning throwing up. Moments later I discovered that my oldest had also thrown up in his sleep. He was sleeping soundly in one of the most disgusting messes I’ve seen (knock on wood). It only took me moments to realize that he’d thrown up so much that it had gone down the wall and somehow deflected onto his little brother. So Tanner’s head, pillows and sheets were also covered in vomit. He was sleeping through the whole episode too, which I find disturbing and perplexing on so many levels, but who am I to judge the sleeping prowess of another?
Side note: I know everyone touts the space-saving ability of bunk beds as a tremendous virtue, but the chance of getting thrown up on by someone on the upper level is a rivaling negative that should be more publicly discussed. There needs to be a warning label at least. This piece of furniture is hazardous and the Surgeon General should get on that. Just saying.
Anyway, I’ll spare you the rest of the nauseating details, but let it suffice to say that I stood there for several moments. I stood there staring at what I knew I had to take care of, feeling sicker than I had in a long time and wondering how I was going to accomplish it.
I quickly found myself getting annoyed. My nausea helped my negativity right along its not-so-merry way. After getting two boys showered, starting laundry and opening a window until I could do the rest, I was basically irate.
After getting my head out of the toilet, I found myself lying on the couch. I stared at the ceiling, fuming about the mess I just had to clean up and thinking about the one that was still awaiting me. I was murmuring all sorts of things to myself about how moms aren’t supposed to get sick and about how I shouldn’t have had to do that. I even realized that I was mad at my son for throwing up in his sleep. How could he expect me to clean up that mess!?
I glanced over at my two sleeping boys who had taken up residence on the living room floor after their room was declared uninhabitable and was overcome by a feeling that I’d never had before.
“Be grateful for all of it, even the awful parts,” the feeling said, “You wouldn’t want your obligation to these children to be gone, nor would you want that responsibility to fall to someone else.” My thought process stopped dead.
No, I wouldn’t. You’re right. I almost uttered the thought aloud.
I instantly felt the warmth that so often accompanies gratitude. I stared at my boys again. I couldn’t imagine having them gone, rendering my service no longer necessary. I couldn’t imagine voluntarily handing my responsibility to serve and love these children over to someone else. I couldn’t imagine their absence or an obligation disappearing that has always been mine.
I suddenly felt grateful for every speck of vomit that I’d ever had to clean up. I felt grateful for the fact that I haven’t slept through the night in two years because neither has my baby. I felt overwhelming gratitude for everything required of me that seemed ridiculously impossible when it presented itself. I felt grateful for dirty laundry and puddles on bathroom floors so severe that I was sure my kids must not have noticed the gigantic toilet bowl right in front of them. I felt gratitude for the adversity that characterizes my motherhood.
Truthfully, I’ve been grateful for adversity before. I’ve learned a lot from my challenges. But never before had I felt grateful that my children needed my service. I’ve felt gratitude for them, but never for the challenges that their presence automatically brings.
I hope that as we proclaim our gratitude this holiday season that we remember to extend that gratitude to every challenge that those particular blessings bring. Be grateful that you’re needed, thankful that you’re necessary and happy that no one has had to step in because you gave up.