More Grateful Still
December 20, 2009

When you're a kid, it's hard to be grateful. It's harder, even, to grasp what the concept means. My parents tried to get us to understand it by going around the Thanksgiving dinner table every year and making us say what we were grateful for.

Me and my sister always said stuff like, "my bike" or "no school." My parents always said stuff like, "the family" and "that everyone's healthy." We'd roll our eyes at "family" because it just seemed so dorky and over emotional. It also seemed to go without saying. Like, of COURSE we were grateful for family, so why bother mentioning it?

I also used to think that good health was a weird thing to be grateful for. I mean, yeah, I was glad not to have the flu or a cold, but other than that? It seemed liked another pretty easy thing to be grateful for.

Kids enter a family, as my friend Sobell likes to say, "already in progress." For kids, being dropped into the family from the beginning of life means knowing no other normal. You're born, and BAM! -- you have a family surrounding you. Comprehending the absence of that family is pretty difficult. I know I never could, so being grateful for an existence that seemed never changing was a huge disconnect.

When you have kids, you know what life was like before them. For better or for worse, you lived without them. You had an existence without them. But then you get kids and so much changes. For me, it's been a total brain reset.

I suddenly realize with shuddering clarity just how much my parents love us. I now know exactly what they went through. The worrying, the joy, the stress and anxiety, the laughing, the delight, the sacrifice. I get why they said they were grateful for family. When we go to the pediatrician and nothing untoward turns up, I get why they were grateful for health.

Sometimes when I lay curled up in the dark, my mind wanders to all my wants and needs, and my stomach tightens as I wonder if we will ever have those things. I take a deep breath and remind myself that we are all healthy and we are all together and that's all that really matters. And then my stomach unclenches because I am grateful.

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