Some families “give thanks” at the Thanksgiving table. Some create an atmosphere of thankfulness in their homes by writing what they’re thankful for on tiny slips of paper year-round and dropping them inside Gratitude Jars. Others simply teach their kids to utter a heartfelt “thank you” at appropriate moments.
All of this is great, but it’s not enough and I think more gratitude needs to be directed toward the unsung heroes of every season: parents. In order to take this a few (thousand) steps further, I’ve developed some additional Gratitude Projects we can assign to our children this season:
Please type a 30-page Expository Essay outlining everything I did for you last Tuesday, citing specific examples such as: reminding you to brush your teeth so they won’t “rot out of your face,” getting you to school four minutes early despite all the frost I had to scrape off the windshield, and sending out 45 text messages in order to rustle up a last-minute play date. *Note that toddlers and pre-schoolers who can’t type yet are not exempt from this project, but they can use crayons.
Please paint a 50-foot mural on the back wall of our shed as an homage to all those times I got you a glass of water several hours after you should have already gone to sleep. If you render my eyes as bloodshot, I will not be offended. I will thank you for your realism.
Please use a scrabble board and tiles to spell out everything I have ever purchased for you since you were born. Make sure to use every letter, yes, even the Z and Q, preferably placed on the Triple score squares. When you’re finished, glue all the letters in place so I can hang it on the wall and silently point to it next time you ask if we can go to Target to buy another LEGO.
Please cook me one dinner in honor of the 3,285 dinners I have cooked for you, not including the year when I was breastfeeding. (Gratitude for that will be assigned as part of next year’s projects.) Note that frozen pizza does not give you credit for this assignment, but boxed mac and cheese does. (It’s only fair since I also considered that dinner many nights.)
Please fill an extra-large cornucopia basket with homemade items that remind you of me. Suggested fillers: Knitted hearts, screen-printed money, or a tiny yet realistic statue sculpted with clay and depicting me with extremely smooth skin. For bonus points, you can also bake several dozen cookies, preferably with walnuts, even though you don’t like them. This will serve as our dining room centerpiece this year, and if you really nail it, for many years to come.
Finally, please tattoo my name alongside the words Thank You, Merci, or even just Thx on your neck, across your knuckles, or somewhere prominent. At the very least, write my name in very clear block letters on the sole of your shoe.
If, despite your best efforts, your kids can’t finish (or even start) any of the above assignments to prove their undying gratitude, rest assured we’re all pretty much in the same, leaky, storm-tossed boat.
Jocelyn Jane Cox is a local freelance writer and author. She is working on a memoir about birth, death, figure skating and…zebras. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to her Highly Informative Newsletter.