Monday, May 25, 2009

My husband and I take turns putting each of our girls to bed each night. It gives us a few minutes totally one-on-one with each daughter every other day, and neither of us has to bear the burden and time it takes to put both girls to bed. ...It works for us.

Frustratingly, but not surprisingly, both girls want mommy to put them to bed every night. You would think after being with mom all day, they would have had enough and would be clamoring for a little space. But no, Violet weeps when Daddy walks away with her saying, "It's bedtime! Say goodnight." And Hope pouts and sulks as Daddy takes her downstairs saying, "I want Mommy to put me to bed!"

This is slightly hurtful for Daddy, and maddening for Mommy.

As we finished a final snack this evening, I announced to Hope that it was Daddy's night to put her to bed. Preparing her in advance usually helps the process. However tonight, she said, not unusual, "I don't want Daddy to put me to bed!"

I took a moment to explain to her that Daddy enjoys spending time with her at night; reading with her, and praying before bed. And I told her that it's hurtful to him when she tells him she doesn't want him for bed time. I added that there are many children whose fathers don't want to spend time with them or aren't able to tuck them in, and she should be thankful for what she has.

To which she announced, as only a three year old can, "Then I just don't want anyone to take me to bed!"

So I (maturely) retorted, "Fine. Then why don't you just go to bed by yourself tonight. You can put yourself to sleep."

She of course didn't like this response, but I think I was sulking even more than her.

My kids, and many of the current generation, are extremely blessed and don't even realize it. They have more material goods than they know what to do with; are warm, well-fed, and protected; and many have a multitude of people in their lives who love and care for them. Yet the blithely walk through life feeling, not only entitled to it all, but demanding even more.

I'm glad that my children have a beautiful home, have never gone hungry, have too many- it seems- toys to play with, and a family who is absolutely crazy about them. I'm thankful they've never known what it means to be in need. But at the same time, I would prefer they show a little gratitude for it all.

Let me be clear, Hope is a sweet, loving, and thoughtful child. For a three year old, she does very well at saying "thank you", oftentimes even unprompted. And both her dad and I are extremely thankful for our blessings, and do out best to show that gratitude.

But still, we're talking about tonight's conversation.

Is it necessary for one to go without to realize what they have been given? Are the only truly thankful people those who know what it's like to have nothing? Do we only appreciate that which we've worked for?

And, if the answer to any of the above questions is "yes", how do you go about instilling those lessons in small children?

I don't have all the answers. If I did, I suppose I would be writing a book and not just a blog. I do know there are other ways to teach children gratitude, such a volunteering to serve others and being an example of gratitude to your children.

In the end, my children are still... in process. I don't have any definite results to show for whatever theories I may have. I am simply doing the best I can, day by day, hour by hour. Sometimes, like tonight, I come to a point where I am not sure what to do. And then, apparently, I ask myself (and you) rhetorical questions for which there are no definitive answers.

By the way, Hope and I ended up talking things out, about being grateful and all. I think she's getting it...

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