Teaching Tots to be Thankful
For this mother, lesson was tougher than she hopes it will be for her own children
Last week, before the overindulgence of the Christmas holiday began, I was determined to introduce my children to the concept of gratitude. Maybe it was a crazy idea from the start, since they are barely three-years-old, but I wanted them to at least get an idea of what it meant to be thankful. To understand that unlike them, there are people in the world who don't have everything they could possibly want, let alone need.
First stop was to bring our free turkey from ShopRite to the collection at St. Aloysius. The girls balked a little at the idea of giving away our turkey, even after I told them we would have plenty of it on Thanksgiving. That this turkey was going to a family who had no Thanksgiving dinner, and wasn't that sad? They didn't seem to find it that sad, but didn't freak out either when we handed over our giant frozen bird.
Their old winter coats were another story. My one daughter in particular was adamant that she needed those coats. She did not want anyone else to have them, she didn't want them leaving the house, she didn't even want to discuss it. She did not care at all about my stories of cold little babies who had no warm coats to wear. She didn't care that she could not fit any of the coats over her arms. I finally left her at home and snuck the coats out to drop them off at the coat drive at the West Caldwell Police Station.
I was disappointed that my children were not born with this innate sense of gratitude and generosity. But then I realized it took me well over 30 years to fully appreciate what it meant to be thankful.
My fifth wedding anniversary fell on Thanksgiving this year. Five years might not seem like a long time, but we've crammed a lot into the last 60 months–the highpoint being the birth of our three children in October 2007, and the lowest point of our lives, let alone our marriage, being the passing of our son three months later. The fact that we survived and are still married, still able to be parents to our children, and that my husband is still able to make me laugh hysterically, fills me with complete and total gratitude.
Thinking back over the last five years, especially the past Thanksgivings, from the one the day before our wedding to the one where we had two tiny babies at home and another baby hours away at a children's hospital incredibly sick, to the present one filled with family and love and too much food, so much we had to give some away, I realize that I also had to learn to be thankful. I thought I was before, I thought I understood, but not in the way I do now.
Maybe without loss you can never truly appreciate all that you have. Every day, I marvel at my life, at my children and my husband and how lucky I am. I am thankful for the true grace that was my son's life and the way he changed all of us. I am thankful to be living in my hometown, walking in the footsteps of my childhood along with my own children.
From the picnic tables in Crane park where we sit and eat lunch on sunny days, to the kind manager at Panera who helps me when I am there alone with my children and overwhelmed, to the friendly ladies at Soho Nails who did my manicure for my wedding and now paint daisies on my girls toes, I am grateful for all of them.
My children will learn this lesson someday, though I hope the road there is easier for them than the trip I had to take. And for now, I will continue to remind them what lucky little girls they are, even if they don't have all their old coats.