Thanksgiving in July

When Marissa was seven, she and a friend were chasing each other during P.E. class when they crashed, and the friend fell on top of her. The collision caused both girls to cry, but within minutes they were both back up and running around.


Marissa didn’t complain to anyone the rest of the school day, but when I picked her up, she told me that her arm hurt. I noticed that she wasn’t moving it much and that she was holding it close to her body, which seemed unusual. I asked if she wanted to go to the doctor right away and she said, “yes” (a sure indication that something was wrong).


We were both shocked to learn that her wrist had been fractured. Neither one of us was prepared to learn that she would have to wear a cast and wouldn’t be allowed to go swimming. It all happened so quickly that we hardly had time to process the information two days before the end of school, two days before our trip to Legoland, and four days before the start of camp.


When we left Urgent Care with her arm in a splint, she was still in good spirits. But within an hour, she started complaining that her arm was hot and itchy. “Oh, boy,” I thought to myself, “this is only the first hour.” How could I get through the next couple of weeks without listening to constant whining and complaining?


The Urgent Care doctor told us it was a hairline fracture; he predicted Marissa would have to wear the cast for two to three weeks, and the Orthopedist scheduled a follow-up for the two-week mark.


I talked to the camp administrators who, without hesitation, assured me they would figure out an alternate schedule for Marissa so that she could still attend camp and take part in as many activities as possible. They were committed to making sure she had a great summer.


After that, I sat down with Marissa and said, “I know you’re disappointed that you won’t be able to go swimming for a few weeks. I was just as surprised as you were when the doctor said you had to wear a cast. How about instead of spending the next few weeks complaining and focusing on the negative, we focus on being thankful?”


She looked at me quizzically, so I continued, “Thankful that it’s only a hairline fracture and not a full break. Thankful that camp is doing everything they can to accommodate you and that they didn’t just say, ‘Stay home until the cast comes off.’ What do you think?”


Marissa agreed, and for the next two weeks I can honestly say I didn’t hear so much as a groan or a grumble about the cast. I was truly amazed and impressed. I made a point of letting her know that I noticed.




Prior to our follow-up visit with the doctor, Marissa started telling her friends and counselors that she was getting the cast off. I warned her not get her hopes up because the doctor hadn’t said anything about getting it off yet. Despite my cautioning, she remained optimistic.


At the appointment, the doctor informed us that the fracture was healing, but that the cast needed to stay on for another two weeks. Marissa didn’t respond in an overly-dramatic fashion, but she did cry. I just held her in the doctor’s office without saying a word. There was no need for “I told you so” or trying to rescue her from feeling upset. I was simply there to support her during a time of sadness and disappointment.


The doctor walked past the exam room and gave me a questioning look. I explained to him that Marissa believed she would be getting her cast off that day. He suggested I take her out for ice cream. When I said, “She’s allergic to dairy,” he answered wittily, “Well, I think I’ve said enough for today,” and left the room.


Marissa continued to cry in the car. After a while, I let her know that she had permission to complain and whine for the rest of the day, but after that, we were going back to being thankful.


And we did.


The cast is off!

The cast is off!


So, although I didn’t make a turkey dinner with stuffing and sweet potatoes, I felt as though the spirit of Thanksgiving was with us. I started wondering why so many people focus on gratitude in November, and then don’t really emphasize it the other eleven months of the year. We’ve been trying to incorporate thankfulness into our daily lives a lot more lately, with special prayers before mealtime and writing in a gratitude journal.


How do you bring gratitude into your life? Please leave a comment below and share how you practice being thankful with your kids. I’d love to hear your stories and get some new ideas.


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Showing 13 comments
  • Denise

    I love how you just were present with her and supported her when she learned her cast wasn’t coming off yet. You knew saying “I told you so” would have been over the line and your composure there was stellar. Awesome for Marissa that she was so into focusing on the positive and that she healed nicely!

  • Dana

    We each share a gratitude at dinner each night- great tradition. Also, we are in the habit of saying things like “we are so lucky that…” randomly and expressing our joy at simple things- ie: “we are so lucky that we have a warm home to sleep in”.
    Love this post, Pam!

  • Yael

    First I am so happy to see Marrisa happy;) I remember the conversion the same day.
    We are trying to focus almost everyday on the good things that happens to us and we thankful. At night when we give the good night kiss each one of us need to say one or two good things that happened to him today.. Than for sure our dreams we sweet;)

  • Nancy

    What a great story. My daughter is also lactose intolerant so the ice cream suggestion stood out to me! Has she had sorbet? My daughter is always excited to see the one or two sorbet selections at Cold Stone & Menchie’s, so we’re able to go out for ice cream for an occasional treat. Even Disney has a bunch of non-dairy options – just have to ask!

    • Pam Howard

      Hi Nancy! My daughter has a milk protein allergy, which is very different than lactose intolerance, though many people confuse the two. Rather than getting an upset stomach, Marissa actually goes into anaphylactic shock when she ingests even the tiniest amount of dairy. We need to carry an Epi-Pen with us everywhere. To answer your question, though, we don’t go to ice cream stores because Marissa is so sensitive that even an ice cream scoop that has traces of dairy on it can cause a major allergic reaction (unfortunately we know from experience). However, Disney seems to have a really good handle on allergies and we’ve had great experiences there. Thank you so much for your comment.

  • Jenny

    I don’t have any kids yet, but do practice gratitude daily. I write a weekly gratitude blog post, Magical Mondays (and this week was late, wonderful wednesday…) so I always try my best. I hope in a few years to also be continuing this practice with my children.

    I also meditate daily, which TRULY helps with gratitude.

    Glad to see her cast is off!!!

    • Pam Howard

      You’re way ahead of most people with your daily practices. Be sure to continue them after you have kids when you’ll need them even more! I’ll definitely check out Magical Mondays…thanks:)

  • Stephanie

    Aw, poor thing! I’m glad you were able to keep your spirits high and everything’s back to normal. I have read study after study to say that gratitude directly contributes to our happiness. I really need to start a gratitude journal!

  • Reply

    This is beautiful! I agree about not just focusing on gratitude at Thanksgiving. I use quite a few things – – gratitude journal, gratitude jar, gratitude walks, focusing on the positive and encouraging my kids to do that as well.

    • Pam Howard

      Amazing, Leanne! Your kids have such a great model for focusing on the positive and I bet the more you focus on it, the more there is! Thanks for commenting.

  • Michael

    Marissa’s a real winner.
    So’s her mom.

  • Emilie
    Reply funny…when i just read the title of your blog I thought (with some weird reasoning) it was going to be about Chanukah and Thanksgiving occurring on the same day this year!! (actually my thoughts were because people talk about Xmas in July.)…

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