Raising Them to be Grateful

Last year's stockings stuffed full.
Last year's stockings stuffed full.

With Thanksgiving passed, we’ve officially calendar-hopped into the happy holiday season. This most wonderful time of the year, following the most thankful day of the year, is meant to be shared with family, to embrace good tidings, and cheer, and historically, shop, shop, shop ‘til you drop, drop, drop. 


Our American tradition of Black Friday, and the newer yet equally enthralling Cyber Monday, has become as familiar as Santa, caroling, and candy canes. Americans love a good deal. And boy, do we like our stuff. 


But this year, there’s been a big social media push to boycott the craziness. Say, “No” to shopping, and rewind the clock back to the original meaning of the holidays. 


Its time has come, for sure. But, I’ll admit, I didn’t click like when friends shared the status update on their personal Facebook pages.


I like to shop. 


A conundrum.


Last week, my children turned six, a special day for me, as all birthdays all for all mothers. Since I worked so hard to get my children here (after infertility and bed rest and cancer), my sentimentality about their birthday is steeped in hope and promise.


I planned a great party, and spent hours putting together a Barbie Dream House with the help of my mother, equally excited about the day and her girls and their growth.


After picking them up from school I drove home, and ran ahead into the playroom, so that I could photo document their excitement.


For a minute they were excited. Until they weren’t, and soon began an ugly fight over the one dog that came with the big, pink plastic palace. 


Their ungratefulness hit me hard.


I was so dumbfounded, and discouraged by their behavior, I did something I’m embarrassed to admit.


I went out that afternoon, and bought them more. 


The next day I was sick about it, because not only did more not make them grateful, it taught them that their awful behavior resulted in a guilt-ridden mother who could be manipulated by whining, screaming, and tears. 


How could I’ve allowed this to happen? 


I am grateful.


I’m grateful for my kids, my health, my friends, and the material things in my life, too. But somehow, the lesson of gratefulness hasn’t been passed down to my children, for which I feel utter disappointment, and blame.


The purpose of the holiday shopping boycott was created to stop the Christmas chaos, but I don’t think it was meant to be anti-shopping as much as a return to better behavior, thoughtfulness, and gratefulness. We mustn’t be defined by our stuff. Our children must be taught by our own modeling, for the cause.


What better time to be focused on an attitude of gratitude than during this beautiful season when houses are warmed by fires, and sparkling lights glitter on newly fallen snow (we can hope). By making the choice to buy less I’ll be reminding my kids that gifts are given out of love, and not as a method for keeping a lid on spoiled-rotten.


There’ll be one present for each girl under my Christmas tree this year, unlike every other year, and my own childhood Christmas mornings when Santa had delivered so many presents; they lined the walls and fireplace mantle. There will be two stockings thoughtfully stuffed. The day will be quiet, full of togetherness, and cheer. 


And they will be grateful…dammit. 


God willing. 


They will.