11.23.10: What's it all about.


It’s cliché, but true: You’ll never be more grateful than you are for your children. It doesn’t matter if your baby is still on the way, recently born, a toddler, teenager or adult; if they’re keeping you up all night teething or up all night worrying; taking their first steps ever or their first into adulthood. Major gratitude is the biggest part of parenting. It’s the art of the deal.

You’ll be grateful to endure their entry into the world and the way they’ll totally dismantle your heart. For the chaos they’ll wreak on your nice tidy life and all the sweet, sticky, silly, mess they’ll make of your carefully tended sense of self. They will turn you inside out and make you question every certainty you’ve ever had about who you are, who they are and who your partner, parents, friends and family are. They’re going to tear you up and…you’ll never be more grateful for anything in your whole life.

You’ll be grateful when they finally stop crying and you can go to sleep. When they finally make it all the way through a sleepover without getting homesick (which means, of course, you can go to sleep). And when they finally arrive home safely after a party (and you can go to sleep). They’re going to wear you out and what little break they give you is going to be totally appreciated.

You’ll be grateful for your partner and for the ability and grace to hand over the reins to the calmer, less exhausted parent of the moment. You’ll be grateful for sex. Not the carefree, whatever, whenever kind you had before children (though, don’t worry, that comes back), but for the dangerous kind that requires a lock on your door. The stolen, determined, risky kind when you know you only have as long as naptime lasts. The kind where you’ve already poured your heart into your babies, have almost nothing left, and desperately need to make more love to fill your heart back up and keep on giving.

I asked friends, parents and readers what they’re most grateful for about having kids and started the conversation rolling with this: I’m grateful for Lidocaine, elastic and caffeine, because what do parents do without those. Here’s how my way more insightful friends answered the question – What are you grateful for?

Jessica, whose boys are two and five says: For friends who sweep in and take your kid home when you are sick, who talk you off the ledge when you forget that daycare is closed (again) and bring you a drink at the end of the week.

Brian, whose daughters are three and five says: I'm thankful to the task of parenting for shining a bright unflinching light into the darkest corners of my own psyche. For forcing me to resolve my own past issues so I become the person I've wanted to be and the kids can hopefully be better than I was. I’m grateful for the kids’ innate beauty, kindness and compassion and for a couple great counselors for helping with personal and parenting issues. I’m grateful for TMV - Too Much Vulnerability.

Colleen is thankful for adult kids, “who still love us and want to be with us.”

Janet, “for my sisters who were parents before me and had answers to all my questions.”

Mary H, whose own mother died when she was young, for, “the pleasure of watching my three daughters grow into beautiful young women and knowing I played a big part in that; especially since I didn't have a good role model to help me through the tough times.”

Kyle is grateful for, “a healthy (now 15 year old) son who takes school seriously and still shares hugs and talks with me!”

Marianna is thankful, “that homeschooling is legal in the U.S.”

Mary B is grateful for “all the private jokes we share.”

Naya Leah is the most recent inductee to the Parental Gratitude community. Her baby girl was born last week after a long, tough labor. She’d hoped for a homebirth, but Mother Nature made other plans. Essia was finally born after several days of labor by c-section. Mother and child are safe, happy and healthy. Naya sums up the gratitude that only comes with parenting beautifully: “Life is beautiful. Hardship makes love deeper, colors brighter. Heart is bigger than it has ever been. My Essia is in my arms.”

And that is what gratitude is all about. It’s not about the stuff, the goals, the titles, deeds, degrees, acquisitions or anything else. It’s about knowing how fortunate you are to have someone or something to wrap your heart around.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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