We were nearly to the hotel, our halfway point from Chicago to Colorado, traveling home after attending an unexpected funeral. I was in a fog of grief—emotionally and physically exhausted. The weather matched my mood as rain started to hit the windshield.
There were only 20 minutes left before our destination exit. But we had reached the “I’m SO done being in the car together” limit a long time ago.
I had everyone shut off their electronics (a dangerous request at this point in the trip) and turned off the music, announcing that I had a request.
“Let’s be silent,” I conjured up in my sweetest but most sincere Mary Poppins voice, “and quietly think about three things you are grateful for. When you’re done, put your hand on your head so we know you’re finished.”
I’m not really sure where the idea came from, but amazingly, they complied.
After a few straggling questions regarding how quiet they had to be, “Can we hum?” and from what timeline they had to choose, the van grew silent.
Breathe. The simple act of being silent and breathing was a rest and reset for everyone.
I was most surprised by this—and how you could feel the mood in the van change. With four kids and a husband who is a verbal processor, our lives are seldom silent. We all enjoy each other (most of the time). But these few moments of intentional silence seemed to ground everyone and help everyone reset.
I believe one of the best things we as moms can do is train our eyes to see beauty every day. To name things we are thankful for and teach our kids to do the same. That on the hard days and in times of deep sadness, while you may not immediately see it, you know it exists somewhere. You can seek it out, name it and allow the beauty of that moment to smooth an edge of sadness.
What a gift to give our kids.
I can’t count the times I’ve started a gratitude journal or joined in on 30 Days of Gratitude. I never seem to complete the activity and get down on myself for not following through.
Yet maybe even in without finishing they, were beneficial. These practices of intentionally counting thanks seemed to give me an awareness. Even on a terribly long and sad day, there was something to count as thanks.
Soon, everyone had silently placed their hand on their head to indicate they had thought of their three.
Then we went around and shared what we were grateful for. This part of the exercise was the sweetest. Hearing what they thought was significant to count thanks for, what they’d noticed and what they’d found important connected us as a family after a very emotional week.
This exercise of silence, counting and speaking thanks was so simple. Since then, we’ve continued around the dinner table.
Sometimes, instead of putting our hands on our head, we hold our forks in the air. Or quietly do the motions to Itsy Bitsy Spider or some other random signal.
This rhythm of thanks has been a gift for our family—after good days, after long days, after days we aren’t getting along, and after busy days when we haven’t touched base with each other. In a few simple, quiet moments, it connects us.