Pictured above are two Cicada carcasses I recently collected off the sidewalk for my children. Ask yourself, “do I know anyone who collects dead bugs for their children?” Now you do.
These dead bugs represent the tip of the iceberg on my recent obsession with raising grateful children. But first to understand the depth of this obsession we’ll go back, far back, to the days when my kids were really young. Back in the day in our house, if I bought a bag of M&Ms, I doled out as many pieces as the children were old. If you were 6, you got 6 M&Ms candies in your hand AND you were psyched you weren’t 2 years old. Peers without children thought this practice was cruel, peers with children felt intense pity for my boys.
But I come from the lonely school that only deprivation can make the emotions of gratefulness come to life. And I was determined to raise children who were grateful for anything I gave them to include pancakes or a college education. Ungrateful children are at the top of my list of children I abhor. I also abhor children without self-control and bad manners, i.e. children with LAZY parents.
So as this summer approached and I found myself writing large checks to Evanston Parks and Rec for summer camps and a super cool babysitter who would take my boys to the beach everyday, I became totally obsessed with this single thought “those boys better be grateful for the massive financial sacrifices we are making for them this summer! My parents didn’t send me to camp! I had to sit and stare at the wall all summer! Kids these day!!!!” My boys’ were out of luck before summer even started, as I just knew they’d be ungrateful!
The best piece of advice my mother ever gave me was “If you have a problem with your husband, take it right to him, don’t sit around and talk about it with your girlfriends, there’s nothing they can do about it.” So, I jumped the gun and went straight to my children before they could even display an ungrateful attitude for one second. I sat them down and gave them a big talk and told them how much work it was for us to produce an amazing summer and that I expected them to be grateful for summer camp, their awesome babysitter AND Lake Michigan. Throughout my speech, they just stared at me and said, “Thank you mom, we are very grateful for summer camp.” I couldn’t have scripted a better response!
As I read books like Willpower and Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I marvel at Chinese-American parents who are able to raise grateful, disciplined and high performing children with the sheer premise that it’s just what’s expected. I want kids who understand what’s expected of them and that includes being grateful for the sacrifices I make as a parent, everyday of my life. It’s my job to communicate that, which is why we’re reading this blog post as a family after dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes.