I love November; a month filled with reminders to be thankful. It’s such a simple concept, yet we always need reminders to be grateful for what we have. As many single parents know, me included, it’s so easy to get caught up in the mantra of wanting MORE. We want MORE money because we’re exhausted from stretching that paycheck until it screams. We want MORE breaks in life because, quite honestly, sometimes just surviving the day wipes us out. We want MORE opportunities for our kids because we feel that living in a single-parent home puts them at a disadvantage. And we want MORE love in our lives because, dang it, it feels good; sometimes I feel like I can go three days just on a heartfelt compliment!
At different times in my life, I’ve found that if I don’t take the time to recognize and appreciate the gifts the world offers each day, I start to become insatiable: wanting bigger, better, faster, more. I feel seemingly incapable of being grateful for the all the small things that, in actuality, are the big things. Yet how do we develop “an attitude of gratitude” that isn’t limited to the month of November? I want this practice to become a part of my everyday routine, all year round.
I’m a strong believer in the “fix what you can and let go of the rest” approach. Yes, I’ve had to work hard and child support was sporadic, but I’ve been able to support my boys pretty well—that’s something to be grateful for. While our home has drafty windows and tiny bedrooms, we all have our own space. Our vehicles are over ten years old, but they deliver everyone safely to school and work. It could be so much worse.
But it’s even more than that. It’s not just about appreciating that we’re not at rock bottom. It’s about valuing what we do have. I remind myself that I live in a neighborhood so safe that I’ve never even seen a smashed pumpkin. That my boys were able to attend a very impressive school district filled with teachers who poured knowledge into them; that my children are witty, bright and kind. And having kids who are healthy and thriving is something to cherish.
In my bedside table is a notebook that I have used in the past to list five blessings daily. Reviewing those gems is a delightful way to see all of the riches around me, and to open my eyes to the beauty and love that is always present. I think it’s time to make recording those daily blessings a habit again.
When my boys were quite young we were big fans of the “list three good things that happened to you today” ritual during dinner. I wish I had recorded those moments! Still, it’s not too late to resurrect that routine.
I no longer want to take for granted that my cupboards always have enough food to keep my family vibrant and strong; that nature presents such incredible beauty, even in the midst of a snowstorm or cloudy day. I want to smile as I think of how my boys always hold a door open for someone, or ask others how their day is going. I never want to ignore that I have a job that makes me happy, with coworkers who are rooting for my success. How about the fact that we have clean drinking water coming out of every faucet in our homes! This is such a basic, simple thing, yet how many thousands of women in other countries spend their days walking for hours to get their families’ daily supply of water?
What could you do in your home, with your family, to take the focus away from wanting more and place it on learning to appreciate what you already possess? Teaching this lesson to our kids is one of the finest ways we can help them grow into the adults this world so desperately needs. Be grateful!
About Renee Brown
Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.