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I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a home where manners were very big. Although my parents didn’t remain together (mom and dad separated when I was 1 1/2 years old and divorced a few years later) and I lived primarily with my mother, both households placed a great deal of emphasis on politeness, graciousness, and thankfulness. I can’t begin to tell you just how many times in my youth I said “Excuse me, and thank you. May I please be excused from the table?”

Being thankful (and expressing that thankfulness aloud) for things done on our behalf was paramount in my upbringing. And while it may have been done out of obligation then, it’s now a trait I’m immensely grateful for as an adult, and again now as a parent. I want Huxley to be the sort of child, teen, and adult that people want to be around. I want him to be grateful for kind deeds done to him and I want him to bestow kindness onto others. In order for him to act in such a manner, it’s important that his father and I cultivate that component of his character.

He’s still just a wee guy, but I’ve begun implementing a step in the direction towards his becoming a conscientious, thoughtful, and empathic person as he ages. We do it each night and I’ve decided to call it our “Gratitudes.” As we get into bed (he still begins each night sleeping on my chest; over the past few weeks, though, he’s started wiggling mid-night, so he gets shifted beside me, facing upright, where he remains contentedly throughout the remainder of our sleep), we snuggle in, I pull the covers up over us, he cuddles his tiny head sideways under my chin, I turn on some soothing ambient music, and I begin itemizing aloud what I’m thankful for from that day. Some things are specific to me (“hot coffee”), some are related to Hubs (“Papa shoveling snow from the driveway”, “Papa bringing firewood up to the house”), and some are all about him (“the Baby Gap gift card from Great-Aunt Gail”).

I continue on, expressing thanks for things both mundane (“scrambled eggs for breakfast”) and profound (“a fifth book deal”), until either I nod off, or I feel content and full of gratitude and Peanut Sauce has drifted off to sleep. It sets me up for an evening full of joy and thankfulness and appreciation for things both tiny and colossal in my life. I plan to keep up our “Gratitudes” for as long as Huxley enjoys them. Hopefully, in so doing I’ll instill in him the same sort of profound sense of blessedness that I feel everyday, and now, every night.

15 Responses to Gratitudes

  • nicole says:

    Thanks for this incredibly heartfelt, poignant post. Gratitude is something I try to bring into each day, and your idea of a daily gratitude check-in is absolutely lovely.

    I'm grateful to have you in my life and that you are able to bring your voice and talents to the world.

  • Meg says:

    I love this post. Throughout your pregnancy I was looking forward to your posts about decisions you were making raising Huxley. I love the idea of instilling gratitude from the very start. My sister in law has worked as a nanny and she taught some of the children in her care to sign “thank you” before they could speak it. I want to try both your idea and hers when I'm a Momma!

  • Anonymous says:

    Well said!

  • And now, for my gratitude: Thank YOU for this post! xo jodi

  • El Gaucho says:

    Thanks for the heartfelt post. I always found it odd that the only time most people are full of gratitude or give thanks is when they sit down, once a year, for Thanksgiving dinner. Taking a few quiet minutes every day to vocalize all that you are consciously thankful for can really make you feel lucky.

  • Shannon says:

    What a beautiful post!

  • Tina says:

    Very good idea :) I promise you it will work. I did this with my children and they have grown up to be grateful for even the smallest things…when the oldest was in ER after accident, as bad as he felt, he thanked each person who cared for him and each officer that came to see him, as well as sending thank you cards afterwards, one to a 6yr old who made him a get well card! paying it forward sure did make this mama happy:)
    I am doing the same thing with our grandson when he stays with us….never too young !

  • Alicia says:

    Ashley, I was raised in a similar household too. “Excuse me,” “thank you,” “please,” and “I am grateful” – these words were, and still are, quite common for me. You do not hear them much these days – omg, I sound old! – and the look of surprise and gratitude on people's faces when they hear these words is…profound. Thank you for this post :D!

    P.S. Peanut Sauce is such a cute nickname!

  • Lorene says:

    Thank you for this post. And reminder. I started a similar “tradition” with my boys and then it eventually stopped. I must re-implement our nightly “gratitudes” (as I shall call them henceforth!) asap.

  • Emily says:

    Beautiful. What a lucky little boy to have chosen such great parents.

  • Gini says:

    I love it! I want to try this someday when I'm lucky enough to be a mama…

  • Carrie says:

    I started doing this two years ago when my son was 2, after doing a presentation on “The Last Lecture” at work. Each night now after the kids say their bedtime prayers, we talk about what our favorite part of the day was, and what we are thankful for. My son is now 4 1/2 and he is very detailed in his answers every night. My daughter is 2, and she has started telling me as well. She learned from listening to her brother. At first it was one word answers, and now they often require a few words,and are more specific to that day. You are starting him ont he right track, little by little is how they learn!

  • Morgan G says:

    Really special post, Ashley. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful 'exercise'.

  • Beautiful!
    He is one lucky little guy.

  • Christine says:

    What a great tradition. And congratulations on a fifth book deal!