Imagine paying millions of dollars to provide your daughter with a rare artifact on her wedding day, only to be upstaged by an appearance for her favorite pop singer. The father looked on in dismay as her squeals interrupted his profound presentation of the other gift. I laughed way too hard at this scene in Red Notice as it is a depiction of a day in the life with my five-year-old daughter. We have all heard of the stories of buying a toddler a new toy with all the bells and whistles, only to find them entertained by the packaging in which it arrived. We begin to think of ourselves as failures as parents in raising ungrateful children who are unable to recognize the value in the gifts they have been privileged to receive. Next comes the thoughts and statements regarding how our own childhoods were not sprinkled with the amenities and opportunities we have worked so hard to provide our children. Enter the old stories of walking to school, uphill both ways with no shoes. Regardless of the impossibility of the story we have been told, our goal is to offer our children a glimpse into the struggle of those that came before them and to teach them gratitude.
I am here to tell you stories of old school transportation and what you went without won’t work. They did not live your experience. Which means they do not know the difference in their current circumstances and those that occurred 20-30 years ago. This is where you pat yourself on the back and recognize you met your own expectations. You were successful in providing the life for your children that you hoped for and have now set the bar for their standard of living. There is nothing wrong with them enjoying the finer things in life or the fruits of your labor. However, there is a requirement of balance to instill gratitude. It begins with teaching them the meaning of value, both monetary and emotional. Openly sharing the amount of time and planning that went into the next vacation or birthday party makes a difference in their appreciation of efforts that have been placed to share an exciting event with them. The budgeting and hunting of the newest toys and electronics to place under the Christmas tree are also topics of discussion. Expressing to them the pride and joy you experience in watching them experience special moments and making memories are the emotional connections. These talks are not meant to be preachy or from a place of look at what is done for them. This is about the underlying lessons. When we teach our children to add value to the experiences and possessions they have, they are then mindful of the items and time they give to others. The cycle of gratitude, humility and generosity begins.
Written by: VaShonda Eason, LCSW