The Oxymoron of Obligatory Gratitude

Yesterday was Logan’s 17th birthday. It was a busy weekend with a scout camping trip, a snow day, and his license test all vying for greatest moment.  We all went to Panchero’s for massive burritos and to the movies with the cushy recliner seats to watch Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie about his favorite band. All in all, he classifies this as an “epic” birthday. He had a great time and was thankful for all of his treats.


Today, I ask him if he called his grandmother to thank her for his new gaming dice. He said he didn’t yet, but he would tell her when he saw her at Thanksgiving. I said go call her now please. His response was, “Oh man, forced gratitude is icky and weird.” He wasn’t forcing the gratitude part – I know he genuinely felt that. It was the part where I required him to call sooner than he was anticipating that made it feel ingenuous.


And I couldn’t get mad at him, because he’s right. Gratitude is one of those all or nothing things. You either try to show it and everything is peachy or you don’t and you feel like a terrible person.


There are so many things I’m grateful for: my health, my family, my career and friends. This being Thanksgiving we are kind of expected to show this gratitude. I’ll be grateful all year long, but as soon as you tell me I have to do it, the little kid in my starts stomping her feet and getting whiny. I wish I knew why my damaged brain works like this.


Like right now. This moment. I have been putting off writing this article all month because I felt like I have nothing new or fresh or genuine to say. The bratty little K is scuffing her feet around and mumbling, “She’s grateful….whoop de doo.” Who wants to read that? I’m boring when I’m expected to perform.


Some things just are. No explanation needed or reason for being. Cookies are delicious. Legos are fun. Gravity sticks us to the ground. The Aurora Borealis is lovely in the sky. I am grateful for no reason and all reasons, and not just because it’s the holiday season.


And for a 17 year old person, my kid is pretty smart.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

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