I’ve gone ahead & just changed this from “days” to “items” since I’ve obviously failed miserably to keep up. But hey, here’s a bonus item I’m thankful for: I DO WHAT I WANT. And lately what I’ve wanted to do eat, watch The Walking Dead on Netflix, and indulge my pregnancy-induced mania by cooking and cleaning. But I do have a lot of other things to be thankful for, so off we go.
Mom & Dad
I’m thankful for my parents all year and every year, but in a year where I’m preparing to be a parent myself, they’re obviously on my mind even more than usual. I count myself lucky in that I have my parents close by, just a few minutes away, and that they’re the kind of parents where this is a good thing.
Growing up, I have no recollection of my family ever coming close to any sort of June Cleaver or Donna Reed sort of existence. I can’t imagine any way my parents could have achieved that with the three little tomboys they ended up with. But what I do remember is that they were always there, doing their best, and doing a pretty amazing job.
My parents read to me and told me stories, growing up, as did my grandparents, and from as early as I can remember they encouraged me to read and write. I credit (and sometimes blame) them for my current creative endeavors.
Another thing they did right, in my opinion, was get all of us involved in soccer (and other sports) at an early age. That may sound strange, but my own experience as a child plus the few years I spent coaching a little girls’ soccer team with my mom, sister & a family friend have convinced me there’s no better pre-school development method than organized team sports. And it’s my opinion that soccer’s probably the best one of them. I started at 5, though these days they start at 3 in a lot of places. And what that does is, prior to entering school, you learn about teamwork, when it’s appropriate to goof off and when you need to listen, what discipline feels like, and the importance of loyalty and consistency. Kids also learn some coordination and get in some exercise, which in this day and age seems to be more important than ever.
So, in addition to learning all of those things, I had my dad there coaching me for about a decade, whether directly or as pre- and post-game rundowns. I had my mom there cheering for me, carting me to a billion different practices, and encouraging my dad to tone it down when he got a little over invested after a game. (Note to parents of pre-teens and teens: after a game, they’re not going to want to listen to you. It’s not really right or wrong; it just is. Make a list if you want, and save it for later. You’ll save yourself a ton of grief, which I know because all three of us sisters gave my dad plenty.)
Another thing my parents instilled in me: an insanely strong notion of social equality and empathy. My kindergarten teacher was Jewish, and she was awesome. I knew this was unique to my social group, and my parents encouraged me to learn more. When I went to church with a friend a couple of years later, during Sunday School, they talked about the Jews condemning Christ. Now, I have no idea what was actually said, but what my young mind took from that discussion was that these people were saying that Jewish people were bad. And I knew that to be absolutely, categorically untrue. I was furious, and I’m pretty sure I never went back to that friend’s church again. Similarly, I had a good schoolfriend growing up who happened to be black. It never even occurred to me that there was a difference until one of my other good friends pointed it out and started calling her “chocolate.” I in turn started calling him “vanilla.” He meant no harm, but there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks I was going to let him single her out.
Similarly, along with this notion of social equality and cultural curiosity, I was raised with the notion that we were Christian. But what I remember about what they taught me was this: Jesus was a special being who lived in my heart, helped me make the right decisions, and loved me unconditionally. There was never any notion of the guilt or need to convince others that my version of Christianity was right that’s so common these days. Instead, I grew up with a sense of security and confidence in myself that helped me through a number of scary moments in my childhood, and a version of which I still carry with me now. It’s also probably a reason why organized Christianity never really sat entirely well with me, though I did try for a very long time, but why I still hang on to many of those ideals (i.e., the Jesus version of things, which tends to look very Buddhist, rather than the church version of things). It’s important to note that I came to my current beliefs on my own, but that I was given the freedom, the curiosity, and the desire for the pursuit of knowledge to do so is one of the greatest gifts in my opinion.
I also have a theory that kids raised on Disney cartoons vs. WB cartoons (the classics; not the stuff they’re spewing out today, for the most part) have a greater sense of empathy and narrative ability. (And no one is allowed to steal that as it’s going to be my thesis if I ever go back to school for my master’s.) And, well…
So that’s the philosophical view of why my parents were awesome. They’ve also been awesome in concrete ways, and I have never not been aware that I am incredibly spoiled. While I worked hard in school and was awarded scholarships that paid for most of my college, there was never any pressure from my parents to do so (beyond that they expected me to do my best — always), and there was never any doubt that I would be able to go to college. When I first got out on my own, they provided a huge safety net by helping me get into a house and a dependable, long-lasting car. I just bought the house from them finally this year, and I’ve been driving my Prius for nearly 9 years.
Sometimes I feel like I should apologize for how relatively scandalous my life seems to have become over the past 5 years or so (at least on paper). I was a pretty tame high school & college student, and despite my best intentions, I’m now I’m a divorced, knocked-up cradle-robber with no immediate plans to get married any time soon. And I could not be happier with any of those circumstances. And I know they’re super happy for me, too. I was a pretty nervous to tell them I was pregnant, but they’re over the moon about it all and have been since the moment I broke the news. Dad never even threatened to go out, buy a gun, & shoot T, much to his (& my) relief. Dad is already looking out for Mr. Baby’s future, & Mom & T have done about 98 percent of the designing/decorating and 100 percent of the remodeling for the baby room. I couldn’t be more excited for Mr. Baby to have my parents as grandparents, and I’m so thankful to have them around as we embark on this new adventure.