Winning the Worst Parent of the Year Award

We were late.  Really late.  It’s not how I had envisioned the day going at all.  Work and last minute phone calls had delayed our departure and now we were racing against the clock and the miles to get there.  I could feel the frustration and anxiety building up in my daughter as she glanced at the clock.  Graciously she held silent, though my own voice was already saying what I knew I deserved in that moment.

5 minutes out from our destination the phone rang. Apparently all the girls had to be present before being allowed into the park, a fact that had escaped me in the initial email days before.  I imagined the words “Worst Parent of the Year” were now becoming visible on my forehead for all to see.

As we approached the steps I could see kids and parents waiting anxiously.  In that moment I wished I could shrink and disappear quietly under the crack in the stairs. My daughter tugged on her hair and shifted her backpack, anxiety evident in the way she carried herself forward.

“Worst Parent Ever” now flashed angrily in Neon from my forehead.  Grabbing hold of the doors, I took a deep breath and we stepped inside.

When our girls were younger it seemed that the moments I failed as a Mom were small in comparison to my fails today as a Mom of teenagers.  Back then it was forgetting about snack day at school or not cutting the ends off a sandwich just right.  It was packing two left shoes and forgetting quarters to feed the ducks at the pond.

Today the stakes seem higher somehow.  The fails holding more consequence as they test the bounds of relationship and trust.  Grace for myself can be hard to come by these days.

Yet reflecting back on that day I realize that the title of “Worst Parent” was self imposed.  Feelings hijacked truth and anxiety feasting on old lies and habits of needing to please.

Coming through the doors that day we meet anxiety head-on but we also meet grace.  Grace silently passed from parent to parent knowing that we have all worn a self-imposed “Worst Parent of the Year Award” at some point.

Parenting is hard. We’re not always going to get it right.  Often we will fall flat on our face, in front of our kids and sometimes in front of a whole group of folks.

It is in that moment, laying facedown in the mud, that we can choose to shrink and slip quietly under the crack in the stairs or slowly stand back up and find Grace waiting to help dust us off.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6





3 Ways to Instill Thankfulness In Our Children

Our oldest daughter was just shy of two years old.  We sat in my in-laws living room watching her amidst all the boxes, wrapping and bows.   It was so much fun to see her having so much fun.

The last present was deposited into her chubby little arms.  Her lips puckered pensively, trying to figure out where to open the package first.  With one swift pull she ripped paper down the side.   And there it was.  A beautiful toy, shiny in all it’s newness.

She stared briefly up at us, back down to her new toy, and then this word……...More? 

I was baffled.  The child had everything her little heart could want.  Piled around her were toys, clothes, coloring books and videos.

When she realized that “more” was not forthcoming she expressed herself as any child wanting more, does.   She leaned back and pitched an absolute fit!  Tears, snot, arms and legs were flying everywhere.  It was not a pretty site.

After that year we decided a new strategy was in order.  Not only in our gift giving but in the lessons we were (or were not) teaching our daughter.  While a fit at two years old is never pretty, I certainly did not want to imagine the same fit at 12.

But it’s not just about teaching our children to be thankful at Thanksgiving time or grateful at Christmas time.  It’s about teaching and instilling a spirit of Thankfulness all year long.

So how do we practically do that?

Here are three key ways we have worked with our children over the years to help instill a spirit of thankfulness.

  1.  Model Thankfulness – If we want our children to be thankful then we must model thankfulness.  Find opportunities throughout the day and week to express things YOU are thankful for.  It doesn’t have to be big things, even the smallest expression of thankfulness can be powerful.
  2. Give Opportunities to Express Thankfulness – Give your children opportunities to express thankfulness.  We do this in several ways:
    • Taking turns around the table to share one thing we are thankful for from our day.
    • While riding in the car asking them to share one thing they are thankful for from their day at school/co-op – Maybe a project went well or a friend encouraged them in some way.
    • Asking them WHO they are thankful for and why – this helps take the focus off themselves and helps them begin to think of others and the world around them.
  3. Serve Others-  Sometimes the greatest lessons in thankfulness is serving others.  Something powerful happens when we teach our children to look past themselves and care for those around them, especially those who are going through a difficult or challenging season.  Here are some things we have done as a family:
    • Make a meal for a family or individual walking through a difficult time and delivering it to their home.
    • Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or food pantry.

There are many ways to help instill thankfulness in our children but ultimately it comes down to us as parents and caregivers.  We must lead the way consistently by modeling, giving opportunities and teaching our children to serve others around them.

As we gather around the table this month, let’s commit to making Thanksgiving more than one day on the calendar.  Let’s commit to making it an every day celebration of Thankfulness.