On Feeling Gratitude in Times of Stress

On Feeling Gratitude in Times of StressWhat is gratitude? The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Even though life gets challenging, I still try to feel thankfulness and appreciation for the great things in my life. This week, Squeaker has had a particularly difficult week at school as well as daycare. While we are currently moving him to his fourth daycare for the year so far and he has been suspended from school once for his behavior, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the amount of support we’re receiving from the community.

Times of Stress

If you had asked me the other day, I would have told you that I felt anxious and depressed about continuing to exist in a constant state of worry about what is going to happen next. The truth is, I really do not have the answers for everything. I try to communicate with Squeaker about what is going on, but he does not have a clear answer for me. Because he has autism, he is not able to express himself well verbally. He needs to communicate in some way, so he does it with his hands and his feet. The only excuse he has for his behavior is that he hates school and he does not have any friends. He knows that his reaction to the stimulation around him does not help him make any friends, but he does not seem to know how to stop the reaction. However, at home, where he gets more attention and support, these behaviors have declined drastically over the past few years. All I know is that the higher up he goes in grade level, the more intensive his behaviors are becoming. School is hard. He does not have support. He wants out.

I love Squeaker with all my heart. In fact, after him having 5 bad days in a row at school, I was done trying to lecture him about it. He gets enough of that at school and we have already taken everything away from him with no results. He lost his TV time, he lost the right to watch Ninja Turtles, and he lost time on his tablet. We also tried to use incentives. It took him over two weeks to earn the new lunch box he wanted, and he has yet to earn the new book we bought for him. The terms were he had to have 5 good days in a row, but even after I reduced it to two, he just couldn’t do it. He tells me every day that he will have “an S day” at school (satisfactory), but then he comes home with a U or an N (unsatisfactory or needs improvement). We start all over the next day with the same can-do attitude, but the same results. He seems eager to please us, but I don’t think he knows how to stop this pattern. Without me being there to observe his behaviors and the triggers, I don’t know what to do. I cannot help him through it without knowing why it is happening, but I can love him, so that is what I am going to do. Show him love. 

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My sources of gratitude

Thankfully, my church family has been very supportive of us. They have lifted us up in prayer and I have phone numbers for people to talk to if I really need to talk to someone. Squeaker does really well at church, and they love him there. While he may not feel that love at school, he always feels it at church. He even volunteers to read during Sunday School even though he hates reading anywhere else. It’s a good place for us. It’s comforting and warm and loving. 

I don’t know what has happened to make school a horrible place in Squeaker’s mind. I cannot tell whether to attribute it to increasing demands due to this being  testing year or whether it is because there are too many children in the classroom for him to handle (over-stimulation), or whether it is because of the fact that he has to wait longer for attention due to the number of children. It could even be something completely different. I have no idea. But I do know that the kids still seem to like him and they know that he cannot help himself. Whenever someone from school sees Squeaker somewhere else, they always greet him so nicely. He may not feel like he has any friends, but he sure is well-liked. I feel a sense of gratitude in knowing this as well. After hearing him talk day after day about not having any friends, I literally cried when I was told how much the kids want to help him. School may not be about socializing, but social interaction is still a huge part of it. 

Finally, I feel so much gratitude for knowing that I am raising two sweet, funny, helpful, smart young men. They each have their own sets of strengths, and I am grateful for them both. My greatest source of happiness comes from the hugs and snuggles I get from my sweet little munchkins, and no matter what, I can always take comfort in that. 


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