Parenthood holds a myriad of moments that grab our attention and make us thankful. As a photographer and mother of three, I have thousands of photos of my children, but there’s one folder reserved for the most special moments captured. I return to these photos often, and they never fail to make me feel deeply grateful for my children, our family and the thousands of tiny moments—both good and bad—that make our lives purposeful. Here are 20 of my favorite grateful moments captured.
This photo was taken only a few days before my second daughter was born, and I knew things were about to change. As I watched my daughter sleep that day, I felt so grateful for the 2 1/2 years we had together and all those quiet mother/daughter dates we enjoyed.
What is the best way to be more aware of your surroundings and grateful for the little things? Watch a child discover the world. After ordering a live butterfly kit, we finally got to witness our butterfly hatching from its cocoon. My daughter was mesmerized and couldn't hide her enthusiasm. Consequently, it rubbed off on us, and this photo will always remind me to be aware and be wowed by beautiful things.
I am forever grateful for the deep heartache I experienced when I discovered my daughter had Down syndrome. It carved room for the love that would follow and made me grow and change as a mother in incredible ways. When I look at this photo, I clearly remember the depth of emotion that was present at this moment—and I'd go back in a heartbeat to experience it all over again.
How many moms have said they've fallen in love with their husbands all over again when they watched them hold their babies? I felt this with every one of my children, but when my second daughter was born and we were grasping with accepting her diagnosis, I'll never forget the comfort that came from watching my husband hold her. He loved her. He accepted her. And it was clearly evident by the way he looked at her.
I've long loved looking for beauty and taking pictures of things that inspire me, so this moment will always make me smile—my daughter, following my footsteps. She took her camera to the grocery store and took pictures of one of her favorites: the lobster tank.
A spontaneous decision to hit the beach for sunset one night led to this beautiful scene—a group of locals swinging hula hoops against vibrant skies. My kids and I watched them as the sun sank below the horizon, and that particular evening now stands out among many beach nights as one that inspires me to seize moments, have fun and be spontaneous.
This photo was taken in Chicago during a family summer road trip. It was a moment of pure bliss I'll never forget—lying in the grass in the middle of a park downtown, my girls climbing all over me, perfect weather and the freedom to explore the city with no agenda. Exploring other parts of the world with our children makes me happy, and I'm so thankful to have moments from our travels preserved.
After my daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome, I began attending a local dance for adults with special needs. While our journey sometimes holds fear and anxiety about the future our daughter faces, this photo offers a glimpse into tomorrow and makes me grateful for the love without limits that we continue to experience.
A few states now separate me from where I grew up, and though I love Florida, I miss a good Midwest fall. My kids don't exactly have memories of leaf jumping, hayrides and apple picking, but my family helps out by sending us a box of Michigan leaves every year. The annual photos of my kids with their leaves remind me how wonderful it is to create our own reality.
Some of my most grateful moments have been inspired by the beauty of nature. This is definitely one of those moments I've saved as one I'd like to repeat—taking my kids back to where I grew up, watching my daughter as she experienced her first snow and being completely amazed by the beauty of winter.
I've always been a lover of holidays—so much that I swear my heart beats a little faster in December. I didn't realize how much having kids would take that enthusiasm to new levels though. The first year my daughter really got it—gasping at the sight of Christmas lights and beaming over tiny snow-covered village pieces—it was truly one of those "this is what it's all about" moments.
It had been more than 20 years since I had visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes, a beautiful landmark in Michigan. So when my husband and I took our girls there to experience a favorite childhood memory of mine, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. Watching my girls retrace my steps on the same sand hills I had loved growing up, I felt grateful for the full-circle perspective parenthood often gives us.
I'm not going to sugar coat it—sending my first daughter to kindergarten was gut-wrenching. She literally had to be pulled from my body the first day, and I cried and watched the clock for the seven hours that followed. But this moment? When I picked her up? She was smiling and pulled from her backpack a picture she drew—"It's you and me," she said. I'm grateful for the good that always follows the bad in parenting.
If one day could take the Gratitude Award, it would be Christmas Eve for me. The Christmas carols, the excitement, the candles, the effort we put into making the next day magical—it all hits me right after I put my kids to bed. Every year, I stop to stare at them before I head out to wrap presents. In that moment, I feel so grateful for everything the year has brought us and all the good to come.
As parents, we know that hitting a milestone is one of those grateful moments to be celebrated. With parenting a child with special needs, those milestones hold even more meaning. After dealing with a lot of "Will she ever...?" questions when my daughter was born, watching her during her first ballet class was emotional. There's a little burst of gratitude attached with every "Look at her go!" moment.
Every time I see this picture, I smile. My husband didn't know I was photographing him, and together, he and my girls were experiencing such a carefree moment of happiness. I'm grateful for this relationship, and when we have our differences, I'm continually reminded of how thankful I am to raise my children with someone who loves being a father.
The "low" moments of life often bring to surface the deepest gratitude. This photo was taken right after my husband returned home from a two-week hospital stay. Some scary health concerns led to an appendectomy and a long recovery, but this photo represents the relief we felt in finding out that everything was going to be okay. I'm grateful we're alive and have each other—that's a lot in itself.
It's a secret language only siblings can understand, and it's amazing. They entertain each other, help each other, hug each other and support each other. And while fighting is part of the sibling package too, it seems a bit insignificant when you catch one of the many moments of magic they share. I am grateful for the love my children share with each other—it's a lifelong gift.
It's easy to get caught up celebrating more obvious moments in parenthood like first steps and birthdays, but the little details are likewise worthy of attention. I love to focus on the tiny details of my children—their eyelashes, swirls of unruly hair and the kissable backs of their necks. I know I'll miss these itty bitty details when they're all grown up.
After casting off several times and reeling in her fishing pole to reveal nothing, my daughter was ready to give up on catching a fish this particular night of our vacation until my husband declared, "One more time--over here." They moved to a new spot and within seconds reeled in this little fish. The celebration we experienced was one I'll never forget. I'm grateful for the many celebratory moments of parenthood...just like this.
There’s so much to be thankful for, we can’t fit them all into one post! Check out BabyZone’s 30 Days of Thanks page to see all the things—great and small—that we can be grateful for each day.