June 20, 2013 by Julia
I’ve gradually taken note of a new offshoot of gratitude these past few weeks. Rather than reminding myself of how good I have it, I like to think of how good my kids have it. Not because we are rich or act like perfect parents, clearly, but because we have enough, and we are good enough. Good enough is better than perfect, anyway. Who wants a perfect mom? I don’t know what that might look like, but I imagine some iteration of Barbie or Stepford wife, talking psychobabble every time her child throws a tantrum. Blech!
Chances are, your kids are growing up in a good environment, too. Most of us are loving. Most of us can meet our children’s needs. We spend so much time worrying about whether or not we’re doing the right things as a parent. But the very fact that we have the time and mental capacity to question ourselves, read the books, or ask for advice probably means that we’re doing okay.
I happened to read a horrifying blog entry last week, written by a woman who was abandoned by her drug-addicted mother as a young girl, and left with an abusive and neglectful father. It was a story so bad I wasn’t sure I believed it. But whether or not this post was real, events like the ones she wrote about actually happen in the world all the time. I also recently read a memoir by Leymah Gbowee, a Libyan mother of four who survived with her children through years of civil war and genocide, a time of destruction and senseless violence and hunger.
It’s stories like this that force me to see our family life in a new light.
My kids wake up in a comfortable bed to cuddles and go to sleep at night with singing and snuggles. They hear “I love you,” at least once a day. They assume that not only will their most basic needs be met by us or their extended family and friends, but many of their emotional needs, too. Their home is a safe place to cry, throw tantrums, show affection, be honest, and ask questions. They have it so good.
Some parents don’t care at all – or at least not enough to actually get involved in the work of raising kids. Some parents are so buried in pain or psychosis or evil that they actively hurt their own children on a regular basis.
Some parents don’t know how they will feed their children or get them clean water. They have to listen to a toddler’s hungry cry, and there is nothing they can do to soothe their pain. Some parents can’t guarantee their child’s safety, and live in constant fear of attack. Some parents have no access to healthcare, and seemingly small illnesses or injuries can turn frightening in a heartbeat.
Maybe these are things you have experienced, as a child or a parent, and if so my heart aches for you. I hope you can find help and healing.
These are fears my own little family has yet to experience, mostly because of where we were born, and to whom we were born – things we can’t take credit for. So I am grateful, and more than a little guilty about those who don’t have such security. We take our safety, our food, and our healthcare for granted. I don’t know how I could go on if my children were hungry and I couldn’t feed them. Instead, I go to my local grocery store every week, where the supply is endless, and I not only have enough money to buy the things we need for nutrition, but things like ice cream, Goldfish crackers, almond M&M’s – things that are fun to eat. And colorful foods, like peppers and carrots and apples and grapes. There is so much variety.
Our days are filled with time exploring the outdoors, climbing playground equipment, feeding ducks and goats, checking out books at the library, getting ice cream, and splashing around in pools. We find friends, and we grow up with them. We visit with adoring grandparents and aunts and uncles almost every weekend. We keep the house clean enough – not too clean, though. When we are tired we go inside and watch a movie while eating Popsicles. When we are dirty we bathe in warm water and put on clean, cute pajamas and read books under the covers. When Jack runs to me, I hold him tight. When Fiona asks me deep questions in the car, I do my best to answer thoughtfully and precisely. When Dennis gets home from work the kids skip to him and he plays with them, chasing and roughhousing, and the house is filled with screams of delight.
I could go on and on. About the kindness we try to teach. About the traveling and learning and music they hear. Can you say the same about your children’s lives? I bet you can.
I thank God for all of these gifts to my children. My heart overflows.