Saturday, June 2, 2012

An Elusive Balance - Restoring Wonder and Gratitude

I'm just home from a little vacation at the grocery store.  You know what I mean?  I took a cup of coffee and strolled through, uninterrupted and in peace!  I had to go tonight, because I stopped shopping on Sundays a while ago in order to better observe the Sabbath.  So, I made the most of it. 

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out how to balance a couple of things.  1.  Not overreacting when my kids push me too far (which I've been working on for a while now), but reacting enough so that they understand where they went wrong.  2.  When to tell them "No", even if I can give them what they want and even if I want to.  Why?  I believe they are spoiled or getting spoiled. 

The sense of wonder I had about everything when I was a kid (and still do) seems to be missing in my own kids.  I think we "go" and "do" too much.  This is a tough one because I love it, too.  I love to swim, and watch them play at the park, and get ice cream, and 1/2 price drinks during Happy Hour.  We are at our best when we are outside and having a little adventure, no matter how small.  However, this lifestyle has, not surprisingly, spawned a "When?" or "What's next?" attitude with no appreciation for what's happening now or what has gone before.  Not good.

Part of the trouble for me (and probably most of the parenting world) is that I am inherently selfish.  I realized this some time ago and am trying to be very aware of my selfish tendencies and act contrary to them.  Let me give you an example.  My boys ask me if I want to play swords.  I don't want to.  But, I know that I am selfish and as an effort to overcome my selfishness, I say "Yes."  Repeat 1-100 times a day, just fill in the blank with a different activity. 

Do you see my dilemma?  I don't want to be selfish, but instead, I am allowing them to be selfish!  Ohhhhhhhhhh!  (I told you I process by writing).

So, sometimes, what is best for them is also what is best for me.  It is best for them that they know how to entertain themselves.  It is best for them that they're allowed to be bored, so their imagination will be forced into action.  It is best for all of us, if they are full of gratitude and empty of entitlement. 

Grateful kids (who don't feel entitled) are kids who know what it is like to want something.  To want something means delayed gratification.  It means you don't get it before you ask, before you earn it, before you exchange something for it, or before you wait a long time to obtain it.

I am grateful that we don't have more money than we do.  We are less "involved" than most people we know, because we can't afford multiple activities per kid.  It seems that when people have a lot of money, saying "No" becomes a lot harder.  As parents, all we want is for our kids to be happy (and to go to Heaven).  In our society, money and the things it can buy are what our kids think make them happy (albeit for a very short time).

So, what now?  For me, I think we'll be staying home tomorrow (except for Church).  I'm going to sit down with the summer calendar and mark out "home" days and "go" days.  I am doing my boys a disservice by overcoming my selfishness to feed theirs.  I am robbing them of opportunities to become creative and self-sufficient.  However difficult it may be for me to stay home on days when fighting is the activity of choice and we all wished we lived somewhere else, I think it is worth the discomfort. 

If all goes according to plan, my boys have many, many more years left on this earth than I do (and 11-15 years left with me).  I want those years to be full of wonder and gratitude!    

Oh, Dear God, Please give me wisdom!  I want to raise my children in a way that pleases You.  I know that You let us figure things out on our own most of the time, but I don't want to get this wrong.  Please help me to raise my children with a sense of wonder and gratitude.  Thank you for my children.  Thank you for loving us perfectly.  Please help us to do the same.  Amen. 


  1. I have struggled with this from the beginning of my motherhood journey. In the past I have wanted to be all things to all people, I am by nature a peace-maker and a people-pleaser, and it was manifested in motherhood by my over-obsessing about the needs of my children, falsely thinking that I shoulder the full responsibility of their emotional, social and spiritual needs. It wasn't until after our third child that I admitted my limitations and realized, much like the Footprints prayer, that God has been carrying me all this time and I suffer under the illusion of control beyond my reach. How freeing and liberating it is to realize that we are only the catalysts of God's love for our children, we do not shoulder the responsibility alone, we merely share in God's plans for them. Such a basic insight - took me so long to accept. This is my tangential way of saying that I'm sorry to all those parents who I secretly judged as being lazy! Haha! It is an elusive balance, you are right. We must teach our children the contentment of living in the present by demonstrating it ourselves, and not fearing that we're not enough for what they need.

    1. Well said, Julia! I didn't think I was the only one, but then I lost my confidence when all I could hear were the crickets! ;) Thank you for confirming my experience. It is good to know that I am not the exception, here. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.