Teach Your Kids to Count Their Blessings, Even if There Aren’t a Lot of Blessings to Count

Count your blessingsThe best thing about the holidays, besides the food, the love, and — depending on who pulled your name in the family gift swap, the thoughtful presents — is that the close of another year signifies a period of reflection. It’s an opportunity to take stock of our fortunes and be grateful for what we have and who we are. Despite the obstacles that have tumbled across our paths like big ol’ redwood trees, we’re still making it. Still standing.

In all of the hubbub of shredding open toys they’ve been begging for for months but will play with for maybe two hours max, it’s important for parents to ask their kids to count the good things in their lives. You know, the ones that can’t be purchased at a 24-hour Toys R Us. It’s so easy to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of Christmas consumerism, but failing to count their blessings may come back to haunt them. 

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Have you ever met someone who’s never satisfied? Good skooga mooga. I have, a couple of times, and they. are. exhausting. They nitpick. They fuss. They fault-find. And they have a hard time spotting the positive in any situation, much less one whose silver lining might take a little craning to see. Folks who don’t appreciate what they have are chronic sourpusses, and they can spend their whole lives chasing bigger and better instead of being incrementally content with what they have.

That’s not what I want for Girl Child, or even your child, for that matter. I fire off a lot of opinions on this here blog but of this much I am absolutely certain: everybody — everybody — has something to be thankful for. Including kids.

Like most mothers, I’ve tried to shield my beloved baby girl from the angst of the real world. We’ve been through some pretty trying times since she was born, particularly in the last five years, from me losing my job and being drop-dead broke while Congress flip-flopped on unemployment benefits to the passing of three family members, including our amazing grandmother who helped to raise us both.

When I got so frustrated or disheartened or grief-stricken that I had to cry, for a long time I’d try to hide it from her, to the point of strapping on my winter time body armor to walk around the block in subzero temps. Just to keep her from seeing her mama upset and inadvertently making her upset, too.

But then I realized I wasn’t doing her any favors. That’s not real. I don’t want her to be under the impression that life is all gumdrops and pretty pink ponies and fluffy clouds. Shit, for lack of a better word, is going to hit the fan, for some of us more than others. But how you respond to hard times, how to deal with them, is what makes you better. Smarter. Stronger. I wanted her to be able to see how, even in the midst of despair, we could find something, even a little bitty thing, to appreciate.

One day, when she was about 8 or 9, I walked past her room. She had pen and paper scattered all over the floor and she looked like she was deep in thought.

“Whatchadoin?” I asked, stopping in the doorway to survey her project.

She held her pen to her chin real thoughtful-like, then looked up at me, contemplativeness scrawled all over her little face.

“I’m counting my blessings,” she said.

I could’ve crumpled onto the floor. The baby had created a little list of about 15 things she was thankful for, and was still going. There we were, a few days shy of an eviction, barely any food in the house, the possibility of moving away from her friends and school looming overhead, a dear family member gone on to glory, and she was counting blessings. I was done.

Teach your kids to be thankful for their loved ones, even if they’re crazy, even if they pluck their nerves, even if they don’t see them often because they helped make them. Teach them to be thankful for life, because every day that they wake up in their right mind and able to move means that there’s still a purpose for them being here. And even teach them to be thankful for their personal storms, their circumstances, and their experiences, because they make them greater.

What are you thankful for this holiday season?  

 

Image via Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

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