This Thanksgiving is like a bucket list for me, except that my bucket list (save one item, really, maybe two) is complete. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I am humbled at the peace and happiness in my life.
Without further ado, I give you the following, divinely inspired, list.
I am thankful for my health, 4Daddy's health, and the health of my children. Because we are healthy, we are able to live (and hopefully enjoy) what life brings us. How I LOVE Ronald McDonald House and the service they provide to care and comfort families who aren't so lucky. While no such service exists for families of sick parents, I am gratefully privileged to have the place in my life to support and care for a sick friend and her family. I am thankful that my children, this past year and for a few years prior, had the great privilege of knowing, praying for, and caring for by mail, a brave soul who fought cancer with umph and grace.
I am thankful for 4Daddy and his willingness to let me be me. I am thankful for his support and patience and love, even when I'm not confident that I'm entitled to it. He puts up with a LOT of shit, that guy, and I'm grateful. I am wonderfully lucky to have someone by my side as I duke it out with this life. I have a dear law school friend who is not so lucky; her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly a few years back, and I have had the great privilege of helping her move through her grief to parenting solo. I have learned strength and courage from her, and I am grateful to her for sharing her journey with me. And, plenty of folks out there have partners who are absent because of service, by choice, or by illness or addiction. Some suffer at the hands of intimate violence. I am thankful that my marriage is one of safety, support, and collaboration. I am thankful that society has selected to honor my choice in a mate, but I am prayerful that some day everyone's choice will be accepted.
I am thankful for 4Daddy's job and his willingness to do it, considering the cost for him in terms of sleep, commute, and sanity. It not only feeds and clothes and houses and keeps us, but it allows my besties and I to have the amazing gift of spending their early years together. We have enough for all of our needs and some of our wants. We don't have to worry about our next meal, our next night's sleep, or staying warm. Instead, we have the privilege of helping others find and have those things.
I am thankful for my beautiful, healthy babies. They are smart and kind and loving. It is an unspeakable pleasure to spend each day in their presence (even when they're irritating me with incessant neediness or squabbles or deaf ears).
My 4D, happy and cuddly and hot shot soul that she is, has completed our family and brought such love and empathy into my children's lives. How I love her "ughs" (hugs), belly-out walk, and desire to model all that the biggers in her life do.
Everyone should be as enthusiastic each day and for each task as my bubbly, sparkly, squeaky 4C. How I love to hear her say "yes" and "you're right, Mom!"
4B lives his life with a level of earnestness and kindness and empathy I admire; if only I could be like him when I grow up! ;) How I love his cuddles, good talks, and helping hands.
4A works so hard to listen and love others on their terms; it doesn't come easy for her, and I appreciate how hard she tries. How she has taught me to mean what I say, love no matter how difficult that may be to do, and appreciate (and, consequently, not sweat) the small stuff.
While on the topic of babies, I must mention how grateful I am to have been able to have my own without help. How I have watched friends struggle and spend (money and tears) in their quests for babies. I am also thankful to know, firsthand, that birth control is not fail-proof, that not everything can (thankfully) be planned. I am awestruck by birth mothers; knowing what I know about having a baby of my own, their gift is overpoweringly amazing. I absolutely know for sure that I would not have had the courage to make such a gift had I been in their shoes in my life before children.
How thankful I am for my parents! I honestly try not to take them for granted. I thank them INCESSANTLY for my life and their help in my children's lives. But, it's really only in a week like this one, full of sick kids and traveling daddy and emergency school meetings and way too much to do and be, when I really realize how much they help. They swoop in at a moment's notice to shuttle a bestie, run to the store, unload the dishwasher, or give a hug. Because of the support they give me, I am able to actually enjoy being a (rather than existing as a) mother to four young children AND be there for them outside of this house when they need or want me. (And, let me apologize to them AGAIN, for each time I didn't listen, lied, talked back, or complained about what they made for supper.)
While on the subject of family, I am again reminded of my beloved Grammy. How I loved her! By the accident of birth, I got to call her mine. She taught me powerful things about this life and about when it ends. She lived a life of quiet service with grace and humility, quiet yet profound faith, and a lot of love. She, too, is what I want to be when I grow up.
I am thankful for autism. It has single-handedly changed my life and led me to be a person worthy of my wonderful life. It has mellowed my ass out, vanquished my anxiety, and taught me what truly matters in my life.
In this vein, I am humbly thankful for the amazing docs in our life. Dr. P, our AMAZING pediatrican, has given me such confidence as a parent, and she takes really good care of my babies, like they were her own. Dr. G; to whom I will be eternally grateful for the introduction of Zoloft, the wonder drug, into our lives. My beloved obstetrican; in a practice of 4-5 docs, having had 4 babies, it was amazing that we were able to be together all four times. He took great care of me and helped me get them here safely.
And, Dr. Steve. I have tried to explain to him MANY times how grateful we are to him. It's a very hard feeling to quantity, the gratefulness one feels for the receipt of a child's presence in that child's life. His care of 4A and our entire family gave us hope, such that we could move forward to a place of peace and functionality. He's taught me so very much about 4A and her mind and her world, but he's also given me courage to trust myself as her mom. He made my house quiet. He helped us release our baby from her autism such that she can be present in her life. His help saved our marriage. He's made me a strong and confident mom of a kid on the spectrum. I'll be forever in his debt.
There are a LOT of teachers in our life. How thankful we are for them! The support and care and love that they bestow on our besties is humbling. And, they do this out of passion because Lord knows they aren't paid what they're worth. They do this, I'm confident, at the cost of hot meals for their families, sleep, and R&R. They spend time and money and care on our children and our family. The ability to outsource some of the child-rearing to such wonderfully competent and loving people is a Godsend. We are especially thankful for our beloved Ms. Patty and all of 4A's teachers. Their burden is doubly great, being both a teacher and a spectrum problem-solver. They have loved her and supported her and encouraged her even when it was difficult to do so.
We are thankful for Autism Speaks. They advocate and educate TIRELESSLY to improve life for families like ours. Imagine a world where we won't have to pay out-of-pocket for the treatments 4A needs, explain her diagnosis to EVERYONE, insulate ourselves from judgment and misunderstanding! Autism Speaks makes that world an eventual reality for families like ours, and we are thankful for that work.
I was not always such a nice person. I did a LOT of stupid shit in my younger years. Didn't we all, I suppose, but it's still not something I'm thrilled about. I've forgiven that person that I was and made amends where I was able, and I've been able to move forward in a life that I confidentally believe feels the same on the inside as it appears on the outside. That's been a LONG, hard journey. I have had a very few friends in my life who loved me right through that. I am thankful for Big Boss, my high school bestie, and Roomie, my college bestie, who loved me even when I hurt them, ignored them, or mistreated them.
As I've aged, two "friends" from my childhood have provided unbelievable support for me as a mom. My dear friend, SWS, and my cousin, MPE. They have known me and loved me my whole life. While life ebbs and flows, of course, they are always, ALWAYS there for me, providing unconditional love and support.
As a mommy, I've made amazingly strong and wonderful friends. These women have tended to my besties, run errands for us, prayed for us, supported us, and fed us. While there are too many to list (especially using acronyms, for goodness sake!), suffice it to say there are MANY, and I would not have survived this ride called "mommyhood" without them.
I have also had the wonderful gift of having MB in my life. She was my amazing doula, who helped me find courage after a less-than-stellar delivery such that I was able to birth my last 3 babies in peace (and one intentionally without drugs, if you can imagine). What started out as a professional relationship has become one of the best friendships of my life. She is my kindred spirit. She gave me the gift of being a confidant after her beloved healthy, kind, sweet, 7 y/o child passed away a few years ago. How much that enriched and informed my life! And, watching her family's joy as they've welcomed a new sweet boy has been amazing, to say the least. I have learned from her strength and courage and grace and love that is very hard to describe. I am thankful for her.
And, my sweet, wonderful Clarabelle. My very first (canine) baby! What a joy it was to rescue and care for her, even and especially at the end of her long life. We should all be so willing as her to put our pasts behind us.
So on this Thanksgiving Eve, as I play and tend and cook and bake and make, I am prayerful for another amazing year of peace and support and courage and intentional joy.