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As a Parent, I’m Thankful for These Small Joys

Grateful for family
I am always, eternally, forever, constantly thankful for these people.

Let me get this out of the way from the outset: I never take for granted how blessed I am to be called “Mom” by three spectacular souls. They are everything to me, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it allows me to truly recognize and express gratitude for all that I have in life because of my family.

But let’s also be honest for a hot second: I would argue that sometimes, especially when you’re a single parent mired in the daily muck (but totally applicable to married parents, too), it’s tempting to fall into a holiday rut. Sometimes we allow ourselves to focus on the loneliness, the never-ending work, the kids’ constantly changing schedules, the laundry that is never actually “done,” the loneliness, the groceries, the merry-go-round of meetings, the decorating, the loneliness, the always empty gas tank because you’re constantly shuttling kids around town, the cooking, and the fact that you haven’t been on a legit date in years (a.k.a. the loneliness).

So during this magical holiday of eternal thankfulness, I challenged myself to think beyond my go-to (though sincere) response to “What are you grateful for?” While “family-friends-home-abundant food-etc.” are arguably the foundations for everything important in my life, they are macro-level; there also happen to be a million tiny things for which, as a single mommy, I also feel truly and whole-heartedly grateful.

Here is my partial list (because a million seemed unwieldy):

  1. That my 4-year-old has discovered the joy of taking a selfie. 
    Bryerlee selfie
    We may have to work a little on the crazy eye.
  2. Any time my teenage daughter texts me a pun. Actually, I’m grateful for any time she texts me, because I realize how lucky I am to have a 15-year-old daughter who actually seems to like me (*knocks on wood*). But the puns are the best, mostly because I know she is laughing on the other end of the message. And that makes me happy.
  3. Observing my children breathe. To be clear, this is not in a creepy stalker kinda way; but I’m venturing to guess that every parent out there knows this feeling — watching as the miracle of life is expressed through simple, life-affirming breaths.
  4. Facebook, because it’s the new scrapbook. I know it’s far more popular to slam the vacuous time-suck that is Facebook these days, but here’s my honest truth: Facebook is a NECESSITY, because without it, where would I keep all of my family photos? I have a 4-year-old without a baby book, because guess what? I documented that shit all over Facebook. Now to buy one of those “My Social Books”…
  5. Having a hairdresser who really knows me. She doesn’t get offended if I work on my laptop instead of talk, she doesn’t require more than a few words in response to “So what are we doing today?” she offers me wine and she gives a good scalp massage. In other words, I think I’m in love.
  6. When my preschooler recognizes a friend (that I don’t) when we’re out shopping.
  7. Amazon Prime. I’ll admit it, I stress about a lot of expenses. But I never think twice about my Prime annual fee, because it has opened up such a magical world. It allows for Christmas shopping any time of the year, with gifts delivered directly to your door — FOR FREE. It allows for binge watching awesome shows (The Newsroom, people. Watch it). It allows me to send random care packages to my son in college, like dried tangerines or germ zappers for his dorm. It allows for personal indulgence shopping, times when I read one of those very well targeted “21 Nasty But Necessary Items Most Added To Amazon Wish Lists” curated Bustle lists that always inspire a purchase or two (I mean, who knew I needed a healing jelly mask made from real snail secretion?). You think I’m joking about that, don’t you? Dead serious. Snail secretion.
  8. Pictures that come home from preschool. Did you know bats have belly buttons? They do, and my 4-year-old enlightened me to this fact through her artwork and subsequent verbal artist’s statement. Who knew?
    See the bellybutton?
    See the bellybutton? Yes, that’s a bat. Don’t judge.
  9. Art supplies. I am beyond thankful to Michaels for its generous supplies of sequins and googly eyes and feathers and glitter glue. These keep my entire family engaged for hours — from 4-year-old preschooler to 44-year-old mommy and everyone in between.
  10. Face masks. In the interest of clarity, I am NOT talking about the creepy Halloween kind — but the kind that make my skin look glowy and dewy. Except not this one, which I ordered and had to remove within seconds because the “carbonation” effect made me tickle so much I almost had a panic attack. Plus it makes you look like Elephant Man, and no one needs to look like Elephant Man.
  11. When my toddler picks a song to listen to in the car that I can actually stand. Taylor Swift? Doable. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Kill me now.
  12. That my kids have grandparents who have created a magical backyard wonderland for bubbles, s’more-making, bike-riding, water-fighting or stargazing. 
    water fight
    There’s a chance my son takes water fights just a tad too seriously.
  13. Randomly buying meals for strangers when I’m out with my kids. We usually do this a few times a year, and nothing makes my heart swell like watching the excitement in my children’s eyes as they anonymously make someone’s day.
  14. My favorite pens in the entire history of the world. You won’t be disappointed if you try these out yourself. Trust me.
  15. The Sunday shower. For the most part, showers are utilitarian: get in, get clean, get out. But the Sunday shower is altogether different. It is a time of relaxation, of standing in the almost-too-hot water and just letting my stress melt away with the suds. Until I look over and see my 4-year-old staring at me with her crazy eyes (see #1 above) from the other side of the glass, but that’s another story. The Sunday shower is a time of hair masks and deep conditioner and exfoliating scrubs. It is a time of post-shower lotion and using the “foot shredder” (as my kids named it), that creepy looking cheese grater-inspired tool that makes my feet soft again. It should be noted: Sunday showers sometimes happen on Saturdays, or on a mid-week holiday. But to me, they are always “Sunday showers.”
  16. My iPhone. I know this will sound unpopular, but I THANK ALL THAT IS HOLY for technology — specifically my iPhone. Am I addicted to it? Probably, but when you’re solely responsible for tiny humans, that’s just a part of life. I use it for work. I use it for photos and videos. I use it to stay connected (if only thinly) to friends, old and new. I use it to see my son, who now lives 582 miles away (not that I’ve counted). What did we do before FaceTime, anyhow?
  17. TJ Maxx & HomeGoods. Let’s just put it this way: I’m totally unsure of the existence of an afterlife, but if there happens to be one, I wouldn’t be adverse to TJ Maxx & HomeGoods being a part of it. The other day — and I’m not even exaggerating — I walked out with two bottles of Essie nail polish, an aforementioned foot shredder, an Oxo salad spinner, four candles, the world’s most comfy hoodie and an iPhone case for a whopping total of $86.45. As a single mommy, can I afford this? SO not the right question, which should be, “How much was it worth to mindlessly spend an hour shopping for random shit while my children were otherwise engaged?” You guessed it: $86.45.
  18. Good pictures of all four of us. Being a single parent means you’re usually the one taking the pictures. This means a decent snap of all four of us in my family is as rare as a color-blind albino cyclops unicorn. So yeah, I totally celebrate the rarity that is the good family photo.

Whether you’re single or married or “it’s complicated,” happy Thanksgiving to you! Maybe we can all commit to sharing the small joys that we’re most thankful for — in the comments below, on the Reno Mom’s Blog Facebook page thread, around your Thanksgiving table or privately with your beautiful family.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch my children breathe. Totally not in a creepy stalker kinda way. Obviously.


About Mikalee Byerman

Mikalee Byerman
Voted "Best Creative Writer" in 2018 by readers of the Reno News & Review, Mikalee Byerman will henceforth be talking about this distinction ad nauseam because it's the first and only popularity contest this former buck-toothed nerd has ever won in her life. She is a humor essayist whose highly controversial blog, Me 2.0, has been featured on the Huffington Post and TIME Magazine's websites. Her writing also has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, Southwest Spirit Magazine and Alaska Airlines Magazine. Her debut book — 100 Things to Do in Reno Before You Die — was published last year by Reedy Press. During the day, she is VP of Strategy for the Estipona Group. Oh, and her name rhymes with "prickly fireman," though FYI, she's neither prickly nor a fireman.

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