In French, Thanksgiving is “the action of grace”. I’ve never really thought much about that expression until this year, but I like thinking about thanks as an action and about gratitude being part of grace. I discover so much about my world and life beliefs in parenting – the great nuggets of wisdom I bestow on my children that I hadn’t even thought about prior to an awkward question during a holiday dinner – like “life isn’t fair” or “we learn by practicing and making mistakes”. Grace is in the doing, even when it’s imperfect.
To me, gratitude is living in the present, celebrating small victories and hallmark moments. They may not last long, but when everything aligns it’s like the entire family takes a synchronized breath. We anticipated a lot of chaos over Thanksgiving, with super late bedtimes and car rides all over the place. But the kids rose above. They were well behaved, helped us get ready when we needed to go, and they took really good care of each other. So what could’ve led to catastrophe ended up shining a beautiful light on our little people. As they paired off to get dressed before leaving for family time, watching the bigs help the littles warmed my heart. When Griffin protected Sylvie from too-hot food, we were awestruck with his attention to his little sister. And watching the kids go on adventures with their cousins, whispering plans not appropriate for adult ears after turkey, I could only smile as they recreated my childhood, years later.
Our house is not clean. Our dog chews up toys, and the baby bonks her head from time to time as she learns to stand. The covers of our books are chewed and ripped, and the kids don’t always like dinner. Yet we are grateful not despite of but because of this proof of our daily existence as a family of seven.
We decorated for Christmas this past Sunday, as we have so many holidays adventures coming up we weren’t sure when we would do it otherwise. When Dave and I took a quiet minute in front of the tree after the kids went down, I mentioned how rare it is for us to get that these days. After a moment of reflection, he remembered having these moments, but how sad they felt with no one to share them with. And here we are, a few years later, our lives changed forever and for better in ways we could never have imagined.
So our grace is in loving the wide, wild families who make up the many layers of family around here: blood, kin, friends, chosen. We are all imperfect, and yet somehow this gorgeous hodgepodge makes more sense than anything else I’ve experienced. So as we eat the holiday leftovers and catch up on laundry and homework, I’m watching, absorbing the wonder. And I’ll try to hold onto this gratitude as we shoot into December.