Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013! ***
It’s Thanksgiving season in the States. I’m not American, but I am thankful.
My life over the last year seems to have been an exercise in the Nietzsche quote, “that which does not kill me makes me stronger.” I was pregnant with nowhere to live, coming off anti-depressant medication with an on-off partner causing me untold stress. Then I was moving house at 33 weeks pregnant with no basic necessities like flooring, saucepans or a cooker. Then I was in labour 5 weeks early. Then I was in hospital for 2 weeks with a jaundiced, premature baby under the care of NICU. Then I came home to a flat whose roof had leaked so badly the bedroom wall was drenched. Then I was unceremoniously dumped via text message and became the single mother of a tiny baby. Then I was dealing with accusations and abuse from S’s father as well as finding out some particularly unpleasant things I wish I’d known sooner.
Would I rather things were different? I’m not so sure. Yes, I would like to have a partner. I would like S to have a father in her life. I would definitely prefer to be able to look back on my pregnancy and the birth of my beautiful daughter with more happiness. But on the other hand, all of those things, all the pain and the tears and the fear and negativity, have brought me to where I am now. It hasn’t killed me, and it has definitely made me stronger.
When you split up with someone who has had a somewhat detrimental effect on your life and wellbeing, one would generally be heard to utter such phrases as “I wish I’d never met him.” I can’t say that; I can’t regret meeting S’s father because that would mean I wouldn’t have her. And despite all the trouble we’ve had, I have never once regretted having her, even for a second.
The famous serenity prayer used in 12-step meetings the world over asks, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” I cannot change this situation. I have spent much of the last year trying to change the unchangeable, blindly banging my head against a brick wall that has not moved an inch. So now, I have to accept the situation, and be grateful for what has led me to be in this position.
Being pregnant and having nowhere to live has made me so grateful for having somewhere to live now, and being housed before S was born – it turned out to be a fairly close call! The fact the house was completely unfurnished, whilst being a bit inconvenient, meant I was able to choose everything and make it mine and S’s in its entirety. I will be eternally grateful to my friends S and B who drove down here from Oxfordshire while I was still in hospital to decorate S’s room, assemble furniture, and unpack boxes so that when we did come home, it looked more like “home” and less like something from a shocking exposé documentary. The fact we had so little provided an opportunity for my friends to show their staggering and incredible worth. A friend from a church I’ve not attended for fifteen years arranged for one of his fellow churchgoers to come and paint over the damp left by the leaks. Numerous friends and family members gave me kitchen equipment, baby clothes, furniture, toys, books. My brother has proved himself worth his weight in gold by laying floors throughout the house, and by acquiring me a washing machine and fridge-freezer. My sister’s boyfriend has come round and put things up for me. My sister Z has played taxi for me more times than I care to remember, picking up shopping and furniture orders to save me money on delivery charges. She also helped me to choose paint when I was given a compensatory decorating voucher by the council, and did some painting too.
The fact S was born 5 weeks early was very scary for me, both because I felt entirely unprepared for it, and because of the risks associated with a premature birth. We are both so lucky that she was born healthy and relatively large, and although we were in hospital for 2 weeks, only two days of that was spent in NICU, and a lot of parents and babies are in a much worse situation. As one of the nurses said to me at the time, it seems terrible being hospital for 2 weeks now, but it’s just 2 weeks at the start of the years you have to come. I am thankful that she is happy and healthy, and at 7 months old, you wouldn’t know how tiny and delicate she was when she was first born
The situation with S’s father is more complicated and unpleasant, but ultimately I am thankful that things ended when they did, before anything bad could happen, before S was old enough to understand anyone had disappeared from her life. Things are far from ideal, but they are definitely the best they can be, under the current circumstances. I am grateful for all the help and support I have received from so many different people and places in the last few months. People I would not have expected anything from have turned up here with a friendly face, a shoulder to cry on, encouraging words, food and smiles. They made me finally realise that I don’t need that in my life, that I can do this on my own and do it better than as a part of that particular couple.
It really is true: that which does not kill me really does make me stronger. I’ve had simultaneously the worst and best year of my life, and now I know that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. If I were American, I would be spending my Thanksgiving remembering all the reasons I am so very lucky.
*** Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next year’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 30 with all the carnival links.)
- Counting My Blessings — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama expresses the importance of reflecting daily on all of her blessings, a ritual she shares with her daughter. Jennifer also shares a few things that she is most grateful for. .
- Thanksgiving — It really is true that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Vicky at Single Mother Ahoy had no choice but to be thankful for all the things that had a good go at finishing her off this year!
- My little gratitude list — Stone Age Parent provides a summary list of all that she is grateful for in her life, including her son, her family, her home, her friends and her country.
- Baking Bread and Nurturing Wonder— Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her way of keeping family traditions alive and nurturing a sense of wonder and thankfulness for food through preparing homemade bread during the Holidays.
- Going Inside for the Winter Holidays — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children reflects that going inside, both physically and figuratively, allows her family to enjoy the winter season in peace and reflection with plenty of time for appreciation of the most important people in her life.
- Traditions — Sustainable Mum discusses the difficulty of establishing traditions that were important in her own childhood for her own children.
- Giving thanks for parenthood — Can we truly give thanks for both the darkness and the light on our parenting journey? Shonnie from Heart-Led Parenting shares her perspective on how gratitude for all that life offers is possible and essential.
- A Tree for the Birds— Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares her family’s new tradition of skipping a traditional Christmas tree in favor of one in the yard.
- Cultivating Gratitude In Children — Lindy at Poppy Soap Co. shares her unique plan for helping her son understand just how blessed they are as a family.
- Are You Truly Grateful — Laura at Authentic Parenting ponders about the ramifications of gratitude as a characteristic.
- Maintaining Traditions Through Family Changes — Jenn from Monkey Butt Junction talks about how changes in her family have led to changing traditions.