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Gratitude is the Attitude: Lessons From Parenthood
by Jennifer Henry
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December 26, 2018

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6 Minute Read

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Gratitude is the Attitude: Lessons From Parenthood

The Henry Family. Courtesy of Jennifer Henry
Parenting Editor Jennifer Henry with her family

As a parent, it’s so tempting to respond to my child’s protests or negotiating with phrases like “because I said so” or “do as I say not as I do.” More often than not, I find myself swallowing the urge to utter these. Instead, I journey down the road of a million questions and entertain what feels like an hour of discussion about the whys. Initially, I did it to teach him that his voice matters and that I respect his perspective and priorities even if I don’t agree, understand them, or change my mind. Ultimately, the practice of hearing him out has taught me to be more introspective into the reasons why I make my decisions and, even more deeply, to reflect upon who I am and how growth is a lifelong process.

I’m truly grateful for the humbling experience of parenthood.

Raising two future men forces me to consider how my own voice and power influences the way they use their voices and power. I always try to keep the end goal in sight and parent from a place of that goal instead of convenience. Would it be easier to make mistakes and avoid discussing those mistakes with a 7-year-old? YES. But then, I would be teaching him that I know it all and that learning is only for the young. I’d be teaching him that growth is for the young. The last thing I want them to think is that adults are stagnant, locked into a perspective that is inflexible to reason, logic, and new emerging information. I’ve met adults who operate from this platform, worked with them, and ultimately gone far, far away from them.

Courtesy of Jennifer Henry
Courtesy of Jennifer Henry

Though never easy, I am open to discussing how, especially in parenting. I know for a fact that my parents worked hard to give us a voice in our household. I remember having family meetings where we had a chance to voice our disagreements and appreciations to the both of them. They were open-minded in these meetings and did their best to let us know that we deserved a say in how we were treated. It is a type of confidence that has helped me throughout my life and all its changes. I am also aware of how every person has their own baggage. In many ways, the intimacy of parenthood can pass baggage along to the next generation or, with self-reflection, honesty, and openness, parenthood can help both parent and child sort through that baggage and get rid of negative weight. I have heard many parents talk about “generational curses.” Often times, those are caused by repeating patterns and behaviors learned from those who raised us. When I am aware, I know and am honest about my baggage, and I will do my best to help my sons be free from as much of my mess as they can be.

Learning to accept criticism is a skill parenthood forces me to tackle.

While I am often my own hardest critic, it can be hard to see one’s self as the person I am versus the person I want/hope to be. I am grateful for the opportunity to show my sons how to listen, recognize, and use what is useful by keeping an open ear, an open heart, and an open mind. I’ve learned that everyone is a teacher, if you’re open. Babies can be the best teachers because their honesty is untainted. It’s not about caring what others think about you. That’s swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other.

In the middle, with balance, it’s about listening to more than words. Through listening to my sons and the way that they learn and think, their purity and innocence has brought me back to an appreciation of the simple enjoyment of life’s moments and the joy of getting better with age. I like who I am becoming because growth, although at times uncomfortable, is a type of freedom.

By listening to my sons’ little voices and minds, I have learned that my own voice is often changing for the better. They make me want to be better for myself and them by slowing down, being present, and being open to growing. In this season of gratitude, I try to keep this perspective at the forefront of my mind and soul.

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