Is this the way you repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Deuteronomy 32:6
We didn’t have any travel plans for April school vacation. So I tried really hard to create a fun week for my children. I planned it so my three kids would have a playdate or an “adventure,” each with a different friend, for all five days. Knowing it would make them happy, I spent the time coordinating with all those parents, syncing calendars, and arranging transportation, keeping everything a secret so I could surprise them over and over again, each day of the week.
Although they were happy and excited on Monday when they discovered we were headed to Legoland, and that each one had a friend coming along, I didn’t find my kids to be all that grateful. When they greedily asked why they couldn’t get soda and buy Lego sets in the gift shop, the greedy or grateful lecture began. That lecture continued straight into Tuesday as their ingratitude continued.
By Tuesday night, it was quite evident that nothing I was lecturing about was sinking in. I think all my kids were hearing was the “wha-wha” sound that all adults make in the Charlie Brown cartoons. I was so upset, I wanted to cancel the rest of the week’s plans. But I felt that canceling would be punishing more than my kids; it would also be punishing their friends, and their friends’ parents, some of whom work full time and were relying on me for the planned childcare. So I continued to stew in my frustration and anger. Before I went to bed, I realized I was fixating on the problem, not fixing it. That is not the mom I want to be.
Wednesday morning my kids woke up with a whole new mom. At 6:55 a.m., I went into their rooms before they could get downstairs for vacation day cartoons. I told them about all of the effort and expense I had invested in the week, and then told them that their ingratitude and greed would not be tolerated for one more second. I explained that because they did not appreciate what I had done for them, I would no longer be “doing for them” for the rest of the day. They were responsible for getting their own breakfast and lunch. Additionally, they were not allowed even one second of screens: no vacation morning cartoons, or afternoon ipad time.
Furthermore, because I was officially “on strike,” they had to do all of my chores! Mason had to empty the dishwasher, clean a bathroom and vacuum. Zack had to fold laundry, clean another bathroom, and also vacuum. Moreover, they had to pay their own entrance fee to that afternoon’s adventure. The money that took them three months to earn collecting the neighbor’s mail for the winter would all be blown on one day’s fun. I wanted them to “feel the pain” of their ingratitude.
I have to say that once the hammer really came down, I was impressed with my kids’ response. When I took action, instead of just lecturing, they really seemed to get it. They really seemed open to learning what I was trying to teach them.
It made me question whether I am that open to learning when God has a lesson to teach me. It also made me question whether I’ve been greedy or grateful lately with all the time and effort God invests in me, arranging the circumstances of my life so that I can enjoy each and every day that He has created for me. When I honestly looked deep inside, I realized that I have been failing on both accounts. I’ve been closed off to any lessons lately, gnawing on a bone of contention I’m having with my husband, positive that I am in the right, and that He needs to be the one to change. I’ve also been taking my family, friends, God, health, and circumstances for granted, riding on a wave of taking, and then wanting more. As Deuteronomy 32:6 says, “Is this the way I repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise me?” Maybe my kids have been ungrateful lately because of what I have been role modeling for them.
All this shook out on Wednesday of vacation week. The punishments I chose were necessary, but they weren’t necessarily teaching my kids gratitude. I had to take it a step further. Knowing that the obvious antidote for ingratitude is gratitude, I created “Gratitude Journals” for each of my kids. Then I dusted off the cover of my own Gratitude Journal that I had started years ago, and have been neglecting lately.
Now, before bed each night, we all have to note something that we are grateful for in our journals. But to further credit and thank The Source for all that we have been blessed with, in the margin next to each and every entry, we write, “Thank You God!” It’s such a small notation, but it carries such immense weight. Everything and anything we have and get to enjoy is only by the grace of God. My kids and I have been forgetting that lately. That’s not okay.
It’s been two weeks since we began our Gratitude Journals. And, as is usual, my kids humble and amaze me. They have been as faithful as can be, noting each night, “I am grateful for recess,” “I am grateful for playdates,” etc. I, however, have been slacking.
It’s time for this mom to stop being so “foolish and unwise,” and find a little self-discipline. It’s time to stop using words to teach my kids, and use actions instead. It’s also pivotal for my own spiritual growth to be doing what is right and necessary. With all that God graces me with daily, the least I can do is say, “Thank You!” each and every night.
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