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On Being Grateful (and Being Told to be Grateful)

Our two kidney donors. I happen to be very grateful for them every single day.

Being grateful is something I think about a lot. Of course, I’m thankful we were fortunate enough to have two women to donate kidneys to my kids. I’m grateful my kids survived kidney failure, suicidal tendencies, dialysis, botched surgeries, emergency health issues. Sometimes I feel that people expect be outwardly grateful me every second of the day and I have to say, I’m not. I am a lot, but I do not walk through life being grateful every second. I just don’t.

I do celebrate a lot of successes and we’re happy most of the time with how the kids lives are going in spite of their complex and serious health care issues. I am grateful. I am. Because it in human nature to fix “it” when they can I think people feel the need to point out to me an easier path I could be on if I were only grateful for what I have and not bemoaning what I don’t have.

The thing I keep coming back to that is bothersome to me is that when people say these things it implies that I am not grateful.

I threw out a question to my Twitter stream and Support for Special Needs’ Facebook page (have you liked us?). It was something I’ve thought about several times over the years. I asked, specifically of parents of special needs kids, “Does it bother you when someone tells you that you should be grateful?”

In short, yes. Actually, it didn’t bother everyone as there were some people who immediately said they were grateful everyday so someone saying something wouldn’t bother them at all. It seems, as you’d expect, that the world “should” is a trigger for a shut down response. That seemed mostly universal between parents of typical kids and of kids with special needs.

I asked again, “What if they posed it more gently, like what if or maybe if you…” would that help? Yes some answered. But still, many said it would matter who and why they are saying it. Some people though if someone was even gentler, asking a question, “What are you grateful for?” might help.

I’ve had the “grateful” conversation with site co-founder Dawn (now on leave) and she and I agreed that because my children are alive, ambulatory, can talk and got kidneys that maybe people expect me to be “skipping through the wild flowers” (I know, it’s a silly picture I put in my head so I use that expression a lot).

We discussed a bigger concept; one of which has us (special needs parents) having some sort of corner on the market of gratefulness, some sort of insight that parents with typical kids don’t have. That answer is no. In fact, I think I have to fight harder to be grateful because for me, it’s easy to get tied up in what is not great about raising kids with special needs. So it’s something I actively have to work on; I mean, every single day.

Today I am grateful. Today I am not grateful.

Where are you in the grateful arena?

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