The title of this blog should be a question rather than a statement. I'm going to start by saying that I am obviously by no means an authority on this issue. I am in the same boat as the rest of you who have young children. All we want to do is raise kind, educated, productive citizens. Right? I'm also going to start by saying that I have a very narrow view of how things should be. That goes for how the dishes should be loaded in the dishwasher, how the laundry should be sorted, how wedding ceremonies should be conducted, and how children should be raised. I'm learning in my old age and experience with every new little person I birth that people who don't do things the way I do things are not wrong, it's just what works for them. So I guess I should say that I have a very narrow view (or way of doing things) that works for me. I'd like to say I'm easy and flexible but I guess I'm really not. The clock runs our house. That works for me. My kids are banned to their rooms for an hour in the afternoons for quiet time. That works for me. They go to bed at 7:30pm so that I can shower before the good shows start at 8pm. That works for me. The people who let their kids stay up until midnight or those who do the Macarena at their wedding aren't wrong. It just wouldn't work for me.
I began thinking about how to ensure I'm raising grateful/non-bratty children about 2 minutes into them opening their stockings on Christmas. First of all, the stockings were overflowing which was ridiculous. They would have been happy with just a couple things and that's what I'm doing from now on. I mean Santa. I need to send him a memo that stockings don't need to weigh 15 pounds. The kids opened something, hardly looked at it, tossed the wrapping paper over their shoulder like Rachel Ray throws salt and moved on to the next present. They repeated this until I stopped them. And if you're thinking to yourself, "God, Ashley, they're only kids!" I know this. I know. I know they are only three and four years old but if they aren't taught now, then when? I stopped them and said, "Wait! What is that? That's so awesome! When you fall and scrape your knee you can use one of those. Santa must have known that you love Spiderman! Isn't that nice he knew that about you? Where should we keep those?" and a whole lot of other bullshit like that. I didn't beat to death each gift but I wanted to give them pause for each and at least let them see me express a little something regarding their presents. I did the same for my own. I think at this age modeling is probably the best example. William is uber observant and I know nothing is lost on him. I'm hoping Drew will just get used to hearing such things and will copy us.
They kids weren't completely dismissive of all their gifts and I certainly don't expect them to ooze gratitude but it was important to me that they knew who bought them what before they opened a gift. And tonight when William put on his contstuction vehicle pajamas I reminded him that Lauren picked those out just for him. He said, "Oh, that was so nice of her." Why yes, yes it was.
The thing I struggle with the absolute most is the amount of "special" things my kids get on a daily basis. When I was growing up, going out to dinner was such a treat. Getting ice cream on the way home from being out somewhere on a Saturday? You hit the mf'ing motherload. Getting to go to an amusement parky kind of place? It was either your birthday or a friend's birthday. Getting a big toy that walked and blinked and sang songs to you? It was obviously Christmas and Santa had fulfilled your one request for the year. Today, for my kids, that's a Tuesday. Or a Saturday. And I'm ashamed of that. They DO NOT need, and more importantly, they DO NOT deserve lemonade every time we go to Costco. My shut-up-and-eat-this-icee-so-I-can-shop-in-peace everytime I got to Target has to go, too. The merry-go-round at the mall? Maybe a couple times a year. I think all of these things add up and give my kids the message that they deserve all the "special" things that are out there. They've always received them so it's just how it should be. I don't agree. "Special" is really become something with little value. That's the scariest thing about all of it. When Drew said about her chicken nuggets, "I don't want these" I wanted to go into the whole, "When I was your age if my mom had taken me to McDonald's on just a plain ol' Monday for the hell of it and I complained..." you know where I'm going with this. Now it's just stopping, or cutting back. I need to make sure that "special" has value again. I think the biggest lesson is that just because you can doesn't mean you should.
My kids aren't completely without lessons in appreciation and gratitude. Not only do Chris and I model them, we did the food bank at Christmas, we shopped for and dontated toys at Christmas, and we acknowledge throughout the year all the little things we're so lucky to have. I point out how lucky Drew is to go to bed with a stack of books in her bed and how lucky William is to have his favorite train that has batteries in it that work. It's all I can do. Acknowledge, model, and soon expect it to ooze from them. The gratitude I mean. Bratty kids aren't gracious. I expect my kids to be gracious. And if they're not, I'll blame Costco for selling lemonade and consider suing Target for selling Icees.
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