If you have followed this blog at all, you know I have been trying desperately to teach my kids an attitude of gratitude in a very entitled world. In the car, I point out all of the beautiful things that God has created. During the day, I try to use the moments when they are complaining to make a list, quick, of at least five things they have to be thankful for. And, most frequently, I nag them, as all great mothers do, with guilt trips and say things like, “I’m sorry. Did you just say, ‘Wow, Mom! Thank you so much for making this nutritious meal for us because you love us so much,” when they have really said something like, “Ugh. I HATE broccoli.” It feels like an uphill battle most days, but at the end of them, I look back and realize how many times I complained about trivial things that were not going my way.
So I’m always wracking my brain for new ideas of things to do to teach not only my kids, but more importantly myself (because an attitude of gratitude is caught more than taught) how to be thankful for those people and blessings in my life. With Thanksgiving just a week away, I wanted to do a week of thankfulness with my kids, hoping it will become a new tradition in our house.
Now, if your kids are anything like mine, I have found it is much more successful when I “suggest” something, rather than demand it. So, I was cool. I was sly. I said to the girls, “Hey. Just wanted to let you know about this new thing I was going to try for people I am most thankful for. Do you want to hear about it? You can even do it with me, but, you know…only if you really want to.” I showed them my little jar that I had filled with flutters of paper, all with names of people I am thankful for. I told them that I was going to pull one out every day between now and Thanksgiving and do something special for that person and include a note that listed the things I loved about them.
Much to my surprise and pleasure, they loved the idea and went about making lists of their own with little prodding from me. Evie pulled down her class picture off the fridge so she could copy names of classmates she would like to add to her list, and they sat there for an hour and painstakingly made a list of people they are thankful for. You have to understand, they just started Kindergarten this year, so they can’t spell yet and are just learning their letters. But, they both insisted they write the lists themselves.
Now, I do need to make a note here, lest you think this was an afternoon of sunshine and roses. I am one of those people who reads other people’s Facebook posts or blogs about the special project they did with their children baking cookies, building snowmen, or crafting turkeys out of Popsicle sticks and picture something akin to a Hallmark commercial and sigh, wondering why my motherly attempts ended in tears rather than hugs. They did have fun (I….um…it was….hmm…well…). They got distracted by the cat, they fought about who had the class picture, they said things like, “Um..no, Mom. I already wrote Grandma Lynn. I want to write Grandma B,” with as much sass and condescension as any six-year-old can produce. They shoved. They rewrote the letter “G” six times because it looked too much like a “D” and I had to wait “patiently” for ten minutes while they wrote down one name. I just felt the need to clarify that, because I understand that any endeavor like this, especially with children, is never easy and I never want to make something sound easier than it is.
So, having said all of that, we each drew names from our jars. The girls each picked the name of my brother and his wife, which was perfect because we were able to do something for them as a couple. I asked them what they would like to do. Their answers were: “make soup” and “bake cookies”. In the end, we decided on the cookies. So we made them snickerdoodles and a card. In the card the girls listed (with my help this time) all the things they liked about each of them. This was my favorite part of this whole experiment because some of the things they said were too cute such as: you are wild, you run really fast, you are really good at juggling (news to me ;). After the cookies were packaged up, we put them in a box and we are going to send them in the mail today.
I picked my Dad’s name out of the jar, so I am planning to surprise him at work. Despite the frustrations of last night, I am super excited to see whose names we pick today. I will let you know how it goes.