The Most Grateful Time of the Year


by Roxi Nevin

As we creep closer into the final holiday of the year and the beginning of not only a new year but a new decade, I find myself focusing on my strengths as a parent in the last year, which has been particularly trying for our family. Being the mother my children deserve is my top priority, and in that goal is the importance of raising grateful children. One of the best ways to do that with kids is to be open with them about your own gratitude, to be vocal about what we’re grateful for, and the reasons we are grateful for them. When we wrote our letters to Santa this year, I encouraged them to first tell Santa 3 things they were grateful for, and 3 things they wished for. The pride that small exercise would instill as a parent was quite unexpected, as children often have the ability to surprise us when we least expect it. At the time I was busy making dinner and getting our nightly routine accomplished, so it wasn’t until after they’d gone to bed that I finally had a chance to sit down and look through their letters for ideas on what I’d be shopping for later that week. I wasn’t expecting to see “family” as the first item on the list of things they were grateful for, particularly not expecting all 3 of them to have written the same thing. They weren’t collaborating or discussing their letters when they wrote them, and I saw nothing that would make me think they had purposely chosen to all write family as the first thing they were grateful for this year, but it caused an emotional reaction in me that I wasn’t prepared for.

At the ages of 7, 8, and 9, my boys are the typical picture of kids in this era. Spending a bigger chunk of time with their noses buried in their electronics than I would like, playing video games, reading books on a kindle, and generally dismissing my pleas for more time outdoors, I often worry that the activities I enjoyed the most in my own childhood will soon be a long-forgotten dream, and that future children will no longer know what it’s like to drink from the water hose, chase down the ice cream truck and climb in trees at the park. So in the moment of reflection reading that word on those papers, in that handwriting that will soon disappear, my boys taught me that if I had one thing to be proud of, it was the knowledge that no matter how disassociated this era of kids is with my own generation, my own kids had been raised in a way that made them appreciate family most of all. They were growing into thoughtful kids, who showed gratitude in ways that made me proud of everything we’ve accomplished, teaching me just as much as I was teaching them. They valued more than was immediately obvious and cherished family, and the time we spent together as a family above all. I later had a conversation with my 9-year-old where I asked him to clarify his feelings about family, and why he’d chosen family as the thing he was most grateful for, and he told me that he was grateful for family the most because he knew he could always count on us. He knew no matter how scary things were, or how sad he felt, he would always have us to make him remember that everything would be okay as long as we had each other. And he encompassed everything I too appreciated about what being a family meant. He appreciated everything we did for him and acknowledged our importance as a unit. I preach a lot about us being part of a team, and that a team only works when the individual members of that teamwork together efficiently, by respecting each other and being considerate of one another and doing our part to individually assist the team in success. He showed me in that moment that my successes and failures were all intertwined as part of the process of life, and that above all I’ve done a successful job at instilling true gratitude into my kids.

I’ve decided that as part of our New Year’s resolutions, we will use one of our extra whiteboards for a weekly lesson in gratitude. Each Sunday, each child will be asked to write the thing they were most grateful for this week and we can discuss it together and use to help us improve the coming week. I plan to take pictures of the board each week and use it at the end of the year to reflect on what we learn about gratitude in 2020, and I look forward to the next surprises they show me.