Family therapy tip: Show appreciation when it’s due. Wednesday morning I woke up to 6 inches of snow on my driveway. This was not in the forecast! So, instead of going to the gym I was shoveling it clear, only to have it completely covered in white 15 minutes later. By the time I left for the office at 8:30 it needed to be shoveled again, and the falling snow offered no end in sight. I hardly gave it another thought but as I pulled up to the garage at the end of that dark snowy day, my 17 year daughter stood on the freshly cleared driveway, with a beaming smile, snow shovel still in hand. “That hurt my arms dad”. It was an unsolicited gift and it was appreciated more than she knows.
That’s really my point. She needed to know exactly how much I appreciated what she did and the only way she’s going to know is if I tell her. As I sit here and reflect on that moment, I realize I have not done that quite well enough. I think I am not unlike most people. There’s something about expressing appreciation in an “over-the-top” fashion that makes us uncomfortable. It seems much easier to take the thing for granted. Especially the small things that happen every day. But the reality is that in order to build close relationships a culture of appreciation is required. I wonder what would happen in your family if you made a point of expressing at least one appreciation every day. And what if you made that appreciation personal and more meaningful than a simple “thanks”.
My wife didn’t use her van on Wednesday and so Thursday morning when she was piling her 7 little daycare troops into their respective car seats, her windshield was covered in what had now become a heavily crusted block of ice. I grabbed her scraper and cleared the obstruction. It took me about 3 minutes. As I was finishing, she poked her head out of the van and said “If these kids are looking at you oddly it’s because I told them that you are my super-hero.” If I can be her super-hero in 3 minutes I will scrape her windshield any time of day or night.
Appreciation is a cornerstone in family therapy. There is something deep inside of us that is touched when we feel appreciated. And yet somehow, taking for granted comes much more naturally. I wonder how our relationships would change today if we made a point to make someone our hero? I’ll be having another conversation tonight with my daughter about shoveling the driveway. She really became my hero in that moment.