Year-End Reflections: A Thanksgiving Wake-Up Call

By: Mary Margaret Reagan-Montiel, Parenting Program Manager at Search Institute

As the end of the year approaches, we (the ParentFurther team) have been reflecting on 2011, sharing the parenting, work, and life lessons that we’ve learned (and earned) this year, and thinking about how we’re going to apply these lessons to our own lives in order to live more intentionally in 2012. In the spirit of new beginnings and learning from each other, it’s time we share a few of our stories with you. Maybe you’ll take a lesson from our little life lessons…and, who knows? Maybe you’ll pass it along…
Here’s to parenting with intention in 2012! Read ParentFurther Program Manager, Mary Margaret’s lesson in living thankfully and being prepared for life’s “what-ifs”.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I had many conversations about what it means to be thankful. During our holiday feast, we went around the table and shared our reasons for being thankful before digging into our lovely meal. As you can imagine, things like “I’m thankful for my Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and the Veterans” were said. We all had an enjoyable feast, and went to bed feeling full of delicious food and happy thoughts. Then, our happy little world was shaken, and my parenting was put to the test the following Saturday morning.

We—my 13-year-old, 6-year-old, and I—were on our way to the public library to get a library card for my youngest when we were rear ended! Thankfully, we were fine (physically), but it was the first time my youngest was involved in traumatic incident, and he took it hard.

He cried, he got angry, and it ended with sadness. In the midst of all his emotions and trying to deal with the chaos surrounding the accident, I too had a hard time supporting him. Once I finally remembered to breathe, I managed to soothe my son. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the times that he fought against my pleading with him to wear his seat belt. All those times when we waited 5 to10 minutes until he gave in and buckled up. I wanted to say, “See, this is the reason why we put on our seat belts the minute we get into the car!” But, I held off. He was too scared and too emotional for me to use the incident as a teachable moment. I decided to wait a few days after the accident to talk with my kids about it. A day after it happened, I asked them to ponder the following question, “What was the lesson you learned from the accident?” I then told them that we could talk about it at our next family meeting. My hope was that my 6-year-old would come up with “always wearing my seat belt” as his lesson. I also hoped that we would all be able to take something meaningful from the experience.

Taking the time to ponder the incident got me thinking about life’s “what ifs”. What if we did get hurt and I would have needed to be hospitalized? I’ve been a single parent for the past 10 months. This entire time, I’ve been bemoaning all the chauffeuring I’ve had to do, but not once did I think about how fortunate my kids are to have me, and how fortunate I am to be able to do it.

I’m sure that most experienced single parents are much better planners than I am. But this experience opened my eyes to the importance of planning. So, during our family meeting we discussed our family’s plan A, B, and C to ease all our minds, in the event of an emergency. Here’s what we talked about:

1. Both kids will have a emergency contact postcards in their backpacks with their names, my cell phone number, my mother’s phone number, and insurance policy number.
2. We will give my neighbors our contact information and alert them that my kids may come to them for help if there is an emergency.
3. We will confirm that my 13-year-old has important contact information programed into her cell phone.
4. We will come up with “what if” stories that illustrate some possible emergency scenarios so that both my kids can be aware of life’s “what-ifs” and also be aware of how fortunate we all are to be healthy, together, and rich with love.

What’s your family’s “what if” plan?

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Lessons for us all… I especially liked your self-reflection of realizing what a gift you (we, as mothers) are to our family. It’s easy to complain about the craziness of life, but it’s important to reflect on how lucky we (and our families) truly are to have that craziness!!

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