Good FamilyParenting

Lessons In Thankfulness From A 7 Year Old

Heather van Mil2 comments4751 views
lessons in thankfulness

The other day my daughter came home from school very upset. I eventually got the whole story from her just before bed. Despite the fact that I had forewarned her, she was upset that she has been one of the only kids in her class that didn’t have hot lunch that day. I had missed the deadline for ordering, and although she would have hot lunch every other Friday of the school year, this one time was devastating. She was mortified. 

I spent some time comforting and empathizing with her, but eventually I felt the need to look at the bigger picture. 

I started by asking if one missed lunch was more important than 30-some-odd hot lunches she DID get. If having something to eat was better than no lunch at all. I asked if she thought the kids in her class thought differently of her because of one lunch, or if they would even remember come Monday. 

Then I moved on to examples of why she should feel thankful. I shared about a local program in some Vancouver schools that fills backpacks full of food for kids who otherwise wouldn’t eat while they’re home on the weekend. 

I shared from my life personally. How, when she was a newborn recovering from open heart surgery, I would look around the ICU thanking God that my baby wasn’t undergoing chemo for cancer that they likely wouldn’t survive. Thanking God that I wasn’t the mom being interviewed by child services after the father of her 3-year-old left him clinging to life support, not expected to live through the night. Thanking God I had a baby in my arms at all, unlike countless others whose arms were empty

I shared how it was frustrating for me to come face to face everyday with things I couldn’t do because of chronic pain and hypermobility, but instead of letting it get me down, I would think of all the people who – through accident, disease or disability, were confined to wheelchairs for life. Whenever I got sad thinking of the things I couldn’t do, I would say, I’m so THANKFUL that I can walk!

After she was in bed, I was thinking through our conversation when I was struck by the realization that I had lied to my daughter. 

While the first examples I shared with her were 100% accurate, they were not tangible to Adri’s day-to-day life. The one that was – me fighting the daily battle with my physical limitations and set backs – she wasn’t seeing gratitude in action. She wasn’t seeing a role model that she could emulate, someone who looked at the big picture and was thankful for all they had and could do. She saw someone who regularly wallowed in self-pity. Someone who made excuses. “If only I could do this or that, life would be different”. She saw someone who felt envious of friends who had success with fitness and weight loss, instead of feeling happy and proud that they were winning a very tough battle. 

It was quite a slap in the face, let me tell you. Up until that point I had convinced myself that I was doing a pretty good job at getting on, despite my limitations. Trust a 7-year-old to hold up a mirror, reflecting the ugly truth. 

There is one thing I am GENUINELY thankful for. My 2 girls, who regularly inspire me to be better than I am. To be the woman I want them to grow into. To be a worthy role model and someone they look up to.  I don’t know that I will ever be that person, but I know I will never stop trying.


  1. If my kids had come home upset that they were the only one without a hot lunch I would’ve said, “Really?! That’s a big deal to you? Let’s hit the Soup Kitchen to hand out meals to the homeless then we’ll talk.”

    Needless to say, there was no need to talk after that. Words are weak, actions are powerful.

    1. I agree that actions ARE powerful. I wish we had local places that would allow children to volunteer. I’ve looked, believe me! I don’t agree that words are weak. They have their own incredible power. Being able to combine words and actions is the best!

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