Grateful for Tantrums


They say to be grateful on Thanksgiving Day, specifically, but sometimes the real day is the hardest one, what with all the cooking and the families and the expectations and the dishes. I think the surrounding days in November work better for experiments in gratitude. Research shows a strong correlation between gratitude and happiness, so if we want to increase our odds of being happy they say we are supposed to write letters to thank parents, mentors, bosses, or friends who have given us some new, clean air to breathe when we have had trouble locating our own. Here is my attempt at such a happiness experiment: a public letter of gratitude to my children, 5-year-old Santiago and 3-year-old Sebastián. Lest you think I am a hypocrite, niños: almost none of the items on this list are things I am grateful for in the moment—if I look like I am choking on the used air of mediocre parenting it’s because I am—but I do think these cleaner thoughts after time in reflection, usually when you are asleep and my lives replenish back to full like in a video game. When we are apart I realize that you are, in many ways, my source of oxygen. 


I am grateful for your mistakes, insofar as they give me an opportunity to practice my mustard-seedish parenting skills.

I am grateful for your mercy, which takes the form of forgiveness quickly granted.

I am grateful for your calling me in the middle of the night to come sleep with you, because it reminds me that my body is a source of comfort.

I am grateful that you list the things that scare you, and also those that make you feel secure. When you use words, I thank you extra.

I am grateful that you call me in to dress you in the morning even though you can dress yourself; this is bound to end, at which point I will only have myself to dress.

I am grateful that you talked me out of cremation by telling me you would like to be buried with me, and thank you in advance for the post-mortem hug you promised to give me when my corpse’s skin starts to come off.

I am grateful to see your faces every morning, even when all sides of the bed seem wrong.

I am grateful for your stubbornness; I don’t worry about anyone taking you for a doormat.

I am grateful to have seen you bear pain; I don’t worry that you won’t know what to do with it when it hits again.

I am grateful that your Papi and I were able to conceive you, which still feels like magic kissed miracle.

I am grateful that you lived inside me for nine months, and that one of you made me throw up french fries I shouldn’t have eaten. Thank you for permanently taking away my appetite for broccoli-cheese soup.

I am grateful that you were both able to nurse: this was by far my favorite part of the first two years of your lives.


Thank you for talking to me, for letting me mess up, for dancing with me, for wanting to hold my hand, for wanting to play with me, for sometimes making me laugh and usually driving me bonkers. Thank you for forcing me to parent creatively and to sometimes walk away instead of choosing force against you, for loving Hamilton as much as I do, for cooking with me and helping me wash dishes. Thank you for giving me numerous chances to decide who I want to be and making me model that behavior, instead of letting me pass on false moral lessons that even I could never live up to. Thank you for challenging my say and for making me reckon with you as intelligent human beings whose souls are filled with reason, emotion, kindness, bravery, and quixotic lunacy. I believe in you and you believe in me and that’s our deal. Happy Thanksgiving, pato y ganzo.

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Mariana loves sandwiches best, although going 95% vegan two years ago means having traded in ham and swiss for eggplant and roasted red pepper. Her boys, Santiago (5) and Sebastian (3), agree that sliced bread is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The boys are native Spanish speakers despite the fact that neither of their parents is, which has made raising them in Spanish a labor of love. Her commitment to raising bilingual children was made possible by being a first-generation Chilean-American born and raised in New York City, and by having spent two pre-kid years living abroad in Mexico City and Salamanca, Spain. Mariana moved to the RGV in 2010 and never wants to live anywhere else. While the kids are at school, Mariana is a full-time Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UTRGV. She has written for the New York Times, Womankind Magazine, and Yahoo Parenting.


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