Some time ago, in a bid to counter our 9 year old’s belief that it was all too hard, life was against her, and nothing was going right, we started a family tradition we call The Thankful Thing. One of the things we lack, as a family without religion, is the affirming rituals and traditions that often go along with religious faith, so it seemed sensible to try to create one of our own, consistent with our own beliefs and values.
The Thankful Thing is very simple, and the kids have taken to it with a passion, squabbling over who gets to go first. However difficult or distressing the day is, at dinner time we all say at least one thing we are thankful for. Oddly enough, the worst days tend to produce the most heartfelt thankful things – like the person who helped us pick up the pieces when things went horribly wrong, or the friendly hug that turned the day around.
A few weeks ago, inspired by a friend, we started to write our thankful things down and toss them into The Thankful Pot. These days the kids love scrabbling in the Thankful Pot for past thankful things. They take turns to go for a lucky dip to find out what we have been thankful for before. It’s an eclectic mix. Everything from “That books were invented” (from Miss 9, although in truth it could have been any of us, we are a house full of inveterate bookworms), to “lots of hugs today”, “that I love my job”, “that we do science at school”, “that we hung out with friends today”, “that I came home to a really yummy dinner”, “that the girls helped clean up”, “yoga”, “that I went for a ride in the sun today” or “that we have awesome friends”.
And I want to thank you for giving me
The best day of my life
Ohh, just to be with you is having
The best day of my life
Some friends appear regularly in our thankful things. Some activities appear a lot too, like reading, cycling, and hugging. Early on we had to make a rule that we weren’t allowed to mention “not thankful things” at Thankful Thing time (such as “I’m not thankful that mummy wouldn’t let me…”, but we don’t have to enforce that rule now. The kids clamour to find and list thankful things, and to put their own entries into the pot.
It’s a very simple thing to do, but it’s amazingly powerful. It concentrates our minds on the good bits of the day – on the things that went right, and the people who looked after us. There has never been a day when we couldn’t find something to be thankful for, although sometimes one of us gets into a mood and we have to wait patiently for the good stuff to bubble to the surface, past the cranky demons of a bad day. So far it always has.
My tea’s gone cold, I’m wondering why
I got out of bed at all
The morning rain clouds up my window
And I can’t see at all
And even if I could it’ d all be grey
But your picture on my wall it reminds me
That it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad
Dido – Thank you
Whether you’re 9 or 79, some days are too hard. Sometimes life is too much, nothing seems easy, and there is trauma and stress everywhere you look. Sometimes everyone needs a reminder that even the darkest time have light spots, and even on the worst day there are things to be thankful for. I’m having one of those days today, which is why I decided to write about the thankful thing. Just like the magic way that thinking about being hugged brings almost as much of an oxytocin boost as actually being hugged, thinking about being thankful reminds me just how much I have that I am truly, deeply thankful for.
And you know what? I’m really very thankful for that!