Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s become something of a cliché to remember all the things we’re thankful for by way of celebrating Turkey Day, but I’m doing it anyway.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been profoundly aware of how thankful I am for my children.
It might be their ages (four and seven) or perhaps it’s the autumn hangover of having spent so much of the summer with them, but I want to acknowledge how they make my life better.
They keep me active
I ride my bike every day. It’s a means to an end, because I want my daughter to grow up with the idea that she can get around on her bike. My son, who cannot wait to start kindergarten next year, is anticipating the daily ride as much as he is the excitement of the classroom.
We play soccer, and skate, and swim, and I do all these things with them. This winter, we’ll ski and snowboard and snowshoe and toboggan together.
I don’t think twice about being this active because I want my kids to see it as normal, but the truth is that if it wasn’t for them, I’d find reasons to put off these activities because there’s always more work to do, always some rest to catch up with.
I haven’t been this physically fit since I was playing hockey every day. And that was more than twenty years ago.
They help me see the world like it was new
Last week on the way to swim lessons, my 4-year-old son was talking about how much he’d grown over the summer. When I mentioned he might actually grow to be taller than me, his eyes got wide. “Really?” he gasped. The idea had never occurred to him.
Seeing the world for the first time – again – is one of the most precious things that children give adults who are open to the gift.
When I hang out with my kids, playgrounds aren’t just pieces of equipment. They are jungles and mountains. They are homes to trolls and bears. They are places where skills can be learned, and practiced, and mastered.
The forest isn’t just a bunch of trees and rocks. It’s where we can discover new plants, see how the trees grow, and marvel at the new webs the spiders have spun overnight.
The natural world is awe-inspiring. My kids help me remember just how profound it is.
They amaze me
On her first day of kindergarten, my daughter, inspired by the older kids who were flinging themselves across the monkey bars and wanting to show off to her grandmother, fell and broke her wrist.
A month later, she conquered her nerves and proved to herself that the arm was healed. A month after that she was skipping a bar. A month after that she was turning around at the end and completing a return trip.
By the end of the year, she was hanging upside down from her knees like it was the most natural thing to do.
It’s only one example of the things my kids do that make me gasp, and cheer, and swell with pride.
They give me hope
A colleague once told me that having children is the most optimistic thing a person can do. He was right, and what’s even better is that my kids give me hope for the future.
It’s not just naiveté, either. It’s that youthful sense that anything is possible, because you haven’t yet learned that it isn’t. And amazing things happen when you have no limitations because you don’t know what they are yet.
They make me a better person
When your child starts yelling at other vehicles through their car seat you start to wonder if maybe they’re picking up on your bad habits.
I’m too intense, pragmatic, and quick to frustration for my own good. My kids haven’t made those characteristics go away, but they have made me more aware of my behaviour, which makes me more in control of it.
So I’m working hard at being patient, quieter, and calmer. I’m trying to listen more and preach less.
I’m a work in progress, but my kids are worth it.