I love the Thanksgiving holiday. And here’s a question you might be asked a few times during the next few days: What are you thankful for?
Probably the first things that come to mind are your family members—your kids and your wife, if you’re married. If your family is healthy, you’re gainfully employed, and there’s a roof over your heads, those are also great reasons to be thankful.
And I must add … even if some of those things are not true for you today, I believe you still have many reasons to be thankful. It’s good to have an “attitude of gratitude” even for less noble pleasures in life—opportunities and even material possessions. There are blessings all around us when we stop to notice them.
A few years back, Todd Wilson of familymanweb.com (a father of eight!) provided a fresh perspective on what it means to be thankful as a dad…
He was lying in bed one night and an odd feeling came over him. He had a keen awareness that he was running out of time with his kids. His two oldest kids were 15 and 13 at the time, and it struck him that those boys would probably be out of the house in just a few years. As he wrote, “I have shoes that are older than that!”
So Todd started thinking about some of the things he will miss when his children are grown and out of the house. You know what Todd thought of? Mostly mundane things or even habits that get on his nerves in day-to-day life: like coming downstairs to see his kids flopped on the couch; the way his daughter makes messes working on the latest craft project; or how his two younger boys leave his tools scattered around the garage.
Odd things to miss, right?
I urge you to try that exercise. Ask yourself, What will I miss most when my kids are grown and gone? You might be surprised at what you come up with. Take that list and be thankful for everything on it—the constant chaos, the clutter, the fighting and bickering, the noise, even the whining and bad attitudes.
Don’t believe me? Ask a dad with grown kids and he’ll remember all that stuff with a smile.
And here’s some more perspective from another dad I know. Because of severe medical challenges, his four-year-old son’s entire life has been filled with doctor visits and operations, extra daily tasks to manage his care, and gut-wrenching worries every step along the way.
And yet, this dad says that although he would never choose these challenges for his son and his family, he can still find many reasons to be grateful—great people they have met, the ways his entire family has grown stronger because of the experience, and the outpouring of love from friends, family, and community.
Often, being grateful is simply about taking a longer look at what’s around you and choosing to notice the good things.
So take a few minutes today and count your blessings—even the difficult things or the “stuff” your children do that annoys you now but that will be gone before you know it. Then, turn that gratitude into a greater resolve to act like you’re thankful for your kids. Your gratitude can help you become a better father.
ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey
- With your family, make a list of things you’re thankful for—and don’t stop until you get to 100.
- Write a note to each of your kids listing three or four specific reasons why you’re thankful for them.
- Do you know a dad with a special-needs child? Find a way your family can serve him and his family.
- Enjoy some outdoor activities with your children this weekend—no matter what the weather.
- Brainstorm as a family: What things can we do to help us maintain a spirit of Thanksgiving through the Christmas season?
We want to hear from you. What unusual or even bothersome things will you miss most about your kids someday? Please leave a comment either below or on our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.