Fayetteville, N.C. — My friend and colleague, Amanda Lamb, wrote last week about trying to stem the tide of entitlement when it comes to our children. Not only did her piece strike a familiar chord, it also gave me the courage to speak out about a topic that has bothered me almost from the moment I became a mother.
How do we teach our children to be grateful?
I need courage to address this because I feel guilty. You see, I waited so long to have kids that when I finally did, they became the center of my everything. How could I possibly blame them for thinking the world revolves around their every need when … for a long time, as far as they were concerned, it did. Our house was their world, and their needs/wants/desires ran the house. Period.
Well, that just won’t do. I mean, I suppose it would all be fine if my only plans for their lives would be to stay here with me, with my tending to their every call.
But as life would have it, they grew older and actually wanted to leave the confines of these walls, and well, that meant learning they are not the very first priority in every single’s person’s life.
It’s a crushing realization, but one we must all come to eventually.
And so it is I am now trying to un-do all of that spoiling, and while I’m at it, making a go at teaching things like compassion and gratitude.
Instead of complaining about all the things we don’t have, let’s stop and take note of the many, many blessings we enjoy each day.
One special point of contention: Our house. Amanda wrote about her teenage daughter wondering why they don’t have a bigger house, and why she had to share a bathroom with her sister. Oh, how I have heard this chorus from my own children, down to my son apologizing to a playdate friend for our house being “kind of small."
We live quite comfortably. Each child has their own bedroom. We have both a living room and den. Yes, the kids share a bathroom, but you know what? I grew up in a family of five sharing ONE bathroom for more than a decade. I say this to them every time the complaints begin, but I’m pretty sure my rant is the equivalent to the “walking to school in the snow, uphill” analogy we often heard from our parents.
They just don’t hear me.
And this makes me incredibly sad. Are we really at the point that a warm, furnished, inviting family home isn’t adequate unless it has three floors and a bathroom for each person? Do these kids have any idea how many other children in this world live, how kids in our own country go without even the basic necessities? I feel almost desperate to drive this point home to them, but often feel at a loss as to how to get my message across.
Of course, we talk about it often. And I’m making arrangements for our family to volunteer with Operation Inasmuch so that my kids will see the needs of others, appreciate their own blessings, and hopefully experience how great it feels to help someone less fortunate than themselves.
Humility. Compassion. Gratitude.
We’re in desperate need of it around here.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. She writes about motherhood and family-friendly events in Fayetteville here on Go Ask Mom.