A few weeks ago I was walking on the street while I was checking my Instagram feed on my phone, I know this is not a good thing to do, it makes you very accident prone, a burglar can easily swipe the phone off your hands and run away with it, or you can walk into someone in front of you. There are many things that can go wrong. Well, one of them did. I tripped on something and fell on the sidewalk. My phone flew several feet away from me, I landed on my hands and scraped my palms, and the contents of my purse were scattered on the floor and my dignity also did. Thankfully a man who was sweeping the sidewalk helped me get up and a lady who was walking right beside me helped me get my belongings together.
While I tried to recover my dignity and kept walking, with my phone on my purse to avoid another accident, I started thinking about what had just happened and the blame went to the irregular floor. Then I stopped and said to myself, STOP IT. It was completely your fault, you were not paying attention while you walked and that’s why you fell. No one else is to blame, this is totally on you.
This got me thinking about how sometimes it’s so easy to blame something on someone else for the bad (or not so good) things that happen. It’s easier to complain about everything than it is to be thankful.
I talked to my husband about this and we coincided that sometimes we have to “force ourselves” to look for good things that happen in our daily lives, and that is a bad sign. For us it means we have started to think that complaining is something natural and that gratitude doesn’t come as naturally as it should.
So we thought it would be good to start thinking of the good things that have happened to us every day, and count our blessings rather than just focus on the difficult parts of the day.
We have two daughters, ages 6 and 3. Our firstborn has autism, she was diagnosed a few years ago and she has a very demanding schedule, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychologist, psychiatrist, she goes to a different school than her sister, etc. She also has sensory processing disorder, anxiety, a speech delay and a sleep disorder.
She’s an amazing girl, she’s funny, loving, playful and very intelligent. She and her sister have a great relationship: they play and laugh, they miss each other while they’re in school, they love going to sleep together, It’s super cute. This doesn’t mean they don’t fight over who holds Daddy’s cellphone while watching “Baby Shark” videos on Youtube, who eats the last piece of chocolate or whose toy is better.
My daughter struggles with a lot of things, specially sensory related. She has trouble eating because some textures just don’t work for her, or because different types of food in her meal are “too close” to each other, or because the juice is too wet. Going to bed is usually very difficult. She has trouble falling asleep, so bedtime is a very rigid routine that has to be followed without any changes. Her speech delay includes her not being able to understand some abstract concepts like money, the concept of time, selfishness, guilt, shame or respect. She has trouble with impulse control and won’t take no for an answer, which means she’s always fighting to get her way.
The gratitude challenge
Thinking about the challenges we face daily comes naturally to all of us in the family, that’s why this “gratitude challenge” that my husband and I came up with sounded like a great idea. We’re usually very tired and sleep deprived (the sleep disorder is mostly to blame for this) and our patience usually runs pretty scarce. We both work out of the house, I also have my autism awareness blog and taking care of the girls is no easy task, so our plates are usually pretty full.
Initially we thought about saying them out loud every night before we went to bed, but I thought it would be nice to be able to read them at the end of the year and see what things have made us happy and grateful in the last months. So I thought of using a notebook, but then I changed my mind and decided to use a jar, and write our blessings in small pieces of paper to put inside. This way everything we wrote would stay a “secret” from each other until the moment we decided to read the papers.
I found a pretty jar my mother in law gave me a few years ago and I decorated it with some washitape and tied a tag. I placed it on a bookshelf in our bedroom and we decided on a date to start.
Then we set the rules, we write the date and 1-2 things that have happened during the day that we are grateful for. Then we decided one of the things we are grateful for, every day, has to be related to Florencia, our daughter with autism. This “forces” us to focus on her advances on a daily basis more than on her struggles. Not only is this good for this challenge, it’s good for our relationship with her and with autism. This way we can congratulate her for her achievements everyday, which makes her very happy and proud.
We started on Saturday September 8th. That day was easy, our daughter had to dance in a school function for our national day (we live in Chile and we celebrate our Independence Day on September 18th). So both of us wrote basically the same thing. The rest of the days have been different for both, sometimes easy, sometimes a little harder.
The thing is we are enjoying this instance for gratitude we have imposed on ourselves, it has made us talk more about our day, focus more on the good things and that makes us happy.Enjoy this post? Please pin it!
About the guest author:
I’m a pharmacist, wife and mother of two wonderful girls, ages 6 and 3. My older child has autism (ASD) and she’s the inspiration behind my blog. I try to teach and generate awareness and help society understand its OK to be different and that people with autism (and other special needs) and their families deserve respect and empathy.
We live in Chile, so my blog is mostly written in Spanish, but also includes several articles in English.