The weight of gratitude

love

We woke late, luxuriated in a slow, hot breakfast and spent time cavorting in water under the shower. For a week day, it does not get any better. The kids and I were ready for an outing by the time it was 10:00 AM. I remembered to pack the diaper bag and slip in water bottles even as I left the house. Laddu kicked the seat in front of her and erupted in giggles each time. Ammu and Pattu egged her on. With the day being warm for November, even I did not have the heart to rebuke them. I pulled out of the driveway to a chorus of gurgling laughter. The highway felt like being strapped to a video game, the interplay of light and shadows causing an optical illusion. I glanced at the rearview every once in a while to make sure I did not zone out. Soon, we were slowing to take the exit. As I waited at the light to turn left, the twins piped up “our old school!”. I made a split second decision and drove instead to their old school. We trooped in, the girls and I. The principal, a wizened old lady, rushed to the door to let us in. The happiness she felt at seeing us was contagious. I felt a sense of belonging as we toured each class and said hello to all of their old teachers. They remarked at how much they had grown and hugged them affectionately. One particular teacher lingered, holding them tight and filled with strong emotion. I watched as she queried them on their new school, on their reading and their summer. We were about to leave when she held them both one last time and said in a choked voice.

“You girls are lucky. You know that right? You have the best parents one can hope for. Always remember that.”

A shard of uneasiness punctured the ballooning happiness inside me. I smiled, uncomfortably.

“C’mon! Let’s go.” I motioned to my daughters. They turned from me to her and waved bye.

“You have to be thankful” she said as she turned.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of bad food, compulsive TV and a chaotic bedtime ritual. As I leaned over each child before they went to bed, I whispered “I love you. Sleep tight. See you in the morning.” I lingered just a tad longer wishing I could tell them they never have to feel grateful for this.

In the darkness as I wrapped up the coursework that was due, I sat back and analysed my unease.

Perhaps it has been the many voices I have been privvy to over the past few days. #FlipTheScript has my timelines filled with adoptee voices. Their pain, their anguish, their place in the middle of two factions competing for attention. Their sadness at being forced to feel grateful.

I wonder if anyone I know will clutch Laddu to their bosom and remind her of the wonderful parents she has. I wonder if she will ever be reminded to be grateful for her existence. Most of all I wonder if she will ever question the things she will take for granted.

I am sure Saathi and I will often remind all three of our children to be grateful for all that we have been blessed with. Collectively, as a family. For the food. For the roof over our heads. For the easy life we lead. We will remind them to be cognizant of those less fortunate. We hope they will learn these lessons and internalize them. But, I sure hope not that we will force on them a need to acknowledge gratitude for being their parents. For being part of our lives. For being our daughters.

For that reason, we need to #flipthescript. We need to recognize that our words have power and we need to be careful about how we wield that power.

4 comments

  1. I understand why you feel uneasy with someone telling your daughters to be grateful for their parents. Reading I myself feel like they are forced to examine their lives too soon. It is, however, something someone will tell you growing up surrounded by the Christian community. Christians as a whole like to remind others that they love should be grateful for every breath they take. That it is only through the will of God that they are alive. That kind of thinking invariably leaks out to everyday life. Which is frustrating for the receiver to hear. I don’t know many people who like being told thry should be grateful.

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