The Importance of Reflections and Gratitude
by: Lynne B. Ford
Sometimes when we have gone through a particularly hard season in life, we may be tempted not to reflect on that period, but just chalk it up to a “bad year” as we quickly look forward to what’s next.
For me, it becomes necessary to slow down, stop, and reflect on the obstacles, the challenges as well as the blessings. Because of this practice, I don’t discount or throw away an entire year as a bad year, because in doing so, I’d be disregarding all the good things that were interspersed between the bad periods.
What does this have to do with parenting, you ask? Everything! Sometimes, when our children are acting out or going through a rough patch, we become so engrossed in the messiness of the NOW situation that it’s hard to see the beauty in the little nuggets of joy that God puts in our path.
When my boys were in elementary school, I learned early on to ask open-ended, probing questions, like “describe something interesting that happened at school today.” Otherwise, if I asked, “how was school today?”, the response was typically a bored “fine” as they were eager to get on with the business of playing.
At one point, my oldest son began making up stories of how his friend was bothering him at school. It started innocently enough. Josh mentioned that they boy shoved him. I immediately pummeled Josh with questions about whether he was hurt and how long this was going on, and asked if he told his teacher, etc. Subsequently, after school, Josh always had a new story to tell.
I finally met with his teacher, who was surprised at my version of events. She told me that Josh and the boy appeared to be best buds. Other than the one incident where he was rough with Joshua, they always played together on the playground and sat next to each other in the classroom. What I learned from that experience was Joshua loved the extra attention he was getting from me.
Kids crave attention – good or bad. There’s a phrase that what you focus on grows. If your child knows you’ll shower him with praise over his positive behavior or attitude, he will seek more ways to elicit that response. Likewise, if your child knows you’ll stop what you’re doing to fuss at him for not putting away his toys or for picking on his little brother, he will continue that behavior. He will do more of what draws your attention to him, good or bad.
Here is where reflection comes in: if we as adults don’t stop and reflect on various periods of our lives, we won’t learn the valuable lessons from those encounters with hard times. As moms, sometimes we relish the idea of being “mama bear” where we swoop in to protect our child from the dangers of the world. But we must be “smarter than the average bear” and use wisdom. If you see a pattern emerging, stop and reflect on the situation and ask yourself if it merits your interference. It very well might. Or, depending on the situation, it might resolve itself.
My gratitude over the incident of Joshua and his friend came in the form of relief that he was not being bullied. I gave thanks, too, for the fact that both boys still enjoyed our nightly bedtime rituals where their dad or I would read them bedtime stories before prayers. Also, Joshua has since turned his vivid imagination into good storytelling. He is now in his 20s and has written a book that he started back when he was in the fifth grade.
While I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions, I have made a commitment to slow down more and pay attention to the small things, to relish in the seemingly mundane aspects of life, and be thankful for the peculiarities of my beautiful family.
Lynne B. Ford is a health/wellness entrepreneur, an author, blogger, and former newspaper columnist (Georgetown Times). She lives in Pawleys Island, is happily married for 26 years to Rev. Johnny A. Ford and is a proud and loving mother of two talented, almost adult (gulp!) sons—one a college freshman and another just shy of 21 years. She is currently the Associate Director of Helping Hands of Georgetown in Georgetown, SC