Thanksgiving is the perfect time to talk about gratitude with your littles if you don’t already . God knows we can’t continue this made up first Thanksgiving feast fantasy with Pilgrims and Native Americans like it’s a picture perfect spread in the Williams Sonoma catalog – it was total bloodbath and we all know that…well most of us. I get that it complicates lesson plans for preschool and kindergarten teachers but let’s focus on tracing leaves and teaching kids to say “thank you” and maybe by second grade the history books can start by saying- Our history is full of shameful moments…the first Thanksgiving myth is one of those: American History Chapter One: We Were Mean and Entitled .
Sorry America Is it too soon?
Look, Thanksgiving is truly about giving thanks and literally dedicating an entire day to practicing gratitude. Ideally we are fortunate enough to share the day with those we love and eat and drink until our buttons burst. Last year, I posted this quote by Rev. Michael Beckwith of the Agape Spiritual Center about gratitude:
Begin to notice what you have in your life that you are grateful for and when you look at life through the lens of gratitude , you don’t see as many obstacles or hindrances , you see potential you see possibilities …”
I have to come back to this quote so many times in my life to check in and make sure my feet are firmly planted in the earth and I haven’t completely lost myself. I struggle daily with this idea of being enough and coming back to gratitude is the only way to climb out of that rabbit hole of doubt, insecurity, and my own personal demon – comparing myself to other women and their accomplishments. That’s the one that causes me to dig my fingers in the dirt and claw myself out of the hole begging the roots of the trees to hold me each time I fall deeper and whisper, I promise… I get it…I have more than I could wish for….I’m worthy…thank you .
So how can I create an environment for my child where gratitude is the norm? How can I help her so that she’s not finding herself falling down that same hole as I do? No one knows what the future will hold but since she could speak, we started saying this little prayer at bedtime that my Mom’s preschool students would say before they ate lunch:
” Dear God, Thank you for my family, my friends, and all things good. “
That’s how we started. Some nights she would mention every single friend and family member, or mention ice cream cones or french fries. I dunno…I felt like it was a good start. Has that practice prevented tantrums or moments when I’m yelling to her “You are so ungrateful….” They still happen occasionally but when her day begins with me slicing her apples and buttering her toast at 6:30, it might be difficult for my 5 year old to imagine her life any other way. If she has a conniption fit because I say no to a smoothie after a day of parks and play dates and treats, she’s going to get a Time Out and afterwards, we are going to talk about what a great day she actually had with or without a smoothie and I’m going to ask her to name 5 things she’s grateful for. She’s 5…she only knows whats she’s learned thus far… we’ve been on planes and stayed at hotels and eaten out and had beautiful experiences. If I’m screaming at her “YOU’RE SO UNGRATEFUL!” if there’s no ice cream, Does she even know what that means? Does she have the capacity to understand the cost of airline flights and hotels and and restaurant tabs? Do I just sound like Robert De Niro in A Bronx Tale:” Do you know how many times I have to drive this bus around for you to eat steak???”
In order for her to know when she’s being ungrateful, she has to fully grasp what it is to be grateful. I try to say things like, “It was so nice to spend the whole day with your friends playing at the park and getting a cookie at the cafe “ or “I am so happy you me and Daddy got to go on this special trip together.” And I need to say things like, We are so lucky you have such a nice Doctor … instead of “Do you know how lucky you are to have health insurance in this day and age kid…you should be grateful!??” It’s not about the things we have but the people in our lives…the moments we share. Having parents and family and all of moments we have shared have more value than anything we can buy and have delivered to our doorstep. We have to celebrate and give thanks for all of it. From our cozy beds to a day at the beach. In a Thanksgiving week where thousands of Californians are displaced and left with nothing, to say we are grateful for the roof over our heads is everything right now.
Our world is scary and mercurial, but if I can teach my child to come back to gratitude and love in the face of adversity and ugliness, it gives me hope for a better tomorrow.