Monday, May 31, 2010

gratitude

Maybe the secret to having it all, is believing you do.



I would never go so far as to say my children are deprived.  They have more than enough legos, clothes, juice pouches, and books.  They have a roof over their heads, parents who love them, and running water, which is more than most of the world.  So let me be clear before I even begin this post - my children are not deprived.

But the question in my mind since before Punk was born, has always been this: "If  had one wish for my children, what would it be?"

The answer was always easy: happiness - deep, true happiness.

The second question was always a bit more difficult.  "How do I give them that gift?"

And I think the answer is this:
I don't.
I can't.

So, instead of giving them more, I give them less - a little something we call creative deprivation.  I am pretty certain, that by depriving them of their wants, they are more aware of, and more grateful for the things they need.  I am not talking about manners -  gratitude is not just teaching your kids to vomit out the words "thank-you" as the occassion calls.  Though it's a bonus, social niceties, are not the same as real appreciation for your lot in life.

Therefore, I make a good faith attempt to creatively deprive my kids on a daily basis. We don't have a video game console in our house - which means, that both kids actually enjoy playing educational games on the computer for 15 minutes; the kids have to buy their own gifts for each other at birthdays and Christmas.  Not that I couldn't pay for those things, but they are learning to make small sacrifices for the people they love, and are grateful for the gifts they get, because they understand; and home haircuts are a frequent occurrence. Believe me, when we do finally walk into Cost Cutters, nobody is complaining about having to be there.  They never forget to thank the stylist - and remind me to tip her.

Does all of this withholding make me a better parent than most?  I doubt it.  Will it make my kids better people? Maybe not.  Will it make them happy?  Absolutely.

I see the joy on Punk's face, when I let him pick the CD we listen to.  I get genuine hugs and smiles from Kooka when I ask if she wants to go for a walk in the park. They spend days plotting and planning what type of homemade birthday cake they want me to make for them.  The little things make them happy.

Punk is the child who seems to be most disgusted by greedy behavior.  He is truly revolted by the sound of a screaming 5 year-old, begging for toys in the mall. He'll roll his eyes, and say "Thank you for making sure I did not turn out like that - no one deserves that fate." He notices when people talk rudely to parents, and has zero tolerance for it.  He prays nightly for people who need food and shelter, and gives thanks that he has plenty. He will mouth the word "spoiled" upon seeing an over-indulged kid acting out.  For Punk, gratitude is something he has always known, and a lack of it, is intolerable.

Kooka shows her gratitude in other ways.  She is the first to pull cash out of her piggy bank to donate to a worthy cause.  She willingly pitches in to help with time-consuming chores saying, "You are working really hard on our house - do you want some help?" When we stay at a hotel with a pool, she whispers, "I sort of feel spoiled. Thanks for taking us here."  She takes excellent care of her belongings,  grateful for the three special dolls she has.

I do not know what will happen to Yoda.  I can only try my best and hope for the same.  I hope she doesn't get a car for her 16th birthday, hope she falls when she learns to ride a bike,  hope she has to work for her education,  hope she never assumes that her daddy's checkbook can buy her a happy life, hope she is happy that Kooka's hand-me-downs are relatively cool, hope that she appreciates her lot in life, and never blames anyone else for the way it turns out.

As for the rest of us - today is a perfectly sunshiney day, and right now, this is what we are thankful for:

Kooka:  my family,  my home,  my friends, Rosie the fish, my favorite fuzzy blanket, cool water in the pool

Punk: obviously my family, my sarcasm, Walter the toad, my friends, fresh markers

Me: healthy kids, Punk's sarcasm, getting to have a job I love, my house, rico, my brother, the fact that my kids appear to be fairly resilient about the past 2 years events, the weather, watermelon, finding a little birds nest outside, and knowing that the eggs already hatched, snuggles, bedtime stories and knowing that this list could go on forever.

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