Maybe it’s because I’m reading Escape, the story of a polygamist wife, mother to 8 children, aunt to well over 30 others who lived under the same roof and shared almost nothing. Or maybe it’s because I’m constantly tripping over my daughter’s things. But recently I’ve been thinking about how good my girls have it.
They have two loving parents who are around a lot. They always have food and lots of it. They have snacks and healthy food whenever they want it. They have a comfy home and a large backyard to play in. They have more books and toys than they know what to do with. They have each other.
But to hear the whining in the car today you wouldn’t know it. It was all “Why don’t we ever…” “Why can’t we have…” “So and so has…”
My 4-year-old has everything she could possibly want, but it’s never enough. Which raises the question: how do you teach a preschooler gratitude? How do you make her stop coveting everything else and appreciate what she has?
She’s not a bratty child. In fact she’s pretty much the opposite. She’s always looking out for those around her. She shares everything with her friends and her sister. She takes all of us into consideration when she chooses or does something – our favorite colors, our favorite things… Compassion isn’t the issue here, it’s just plain ol’ want.
And I get that. I do. I really, really do. I mean, when I see someone using a fast new digital camera I want it too. When I see someone in a stunning outfit, I want it too. But I’m a big girl. I know how to separate that desire from how I feel about the things I own. Just because a dress is beautiful doesn’t make my clothes any less attractive. And I still appreciate my camera even if it is slower than the new models.
I just need to figure out how to teach my daughters that it’s OK to appreciate and even want new things, but it’s even more important to appreciate and love the things that we already have.
I started tonight. As we pulled into the garage I interrupted the barrage of rants and quietly asked C to tell me about four things that she had that she was really happy she had.
She thought for a long moment before answering.
“The thing that turns blue when we color with the water pen.” An odd choice considering they only sporadically play with their Aquadoodle, but a good one because she definitely gets a lot of pleasure from it when we do bring it out.
“Anything else? How about your new pony?” I prompted when she flailed.
“Oh. Yeah! My pony!” She beamed at me. “I love my pony!” She hugged it tight and she skipped off towards the house.
For that moment all thoughts of the things her friends had that she didn’t have were banished from her mind. She had her pony and she was home. Tomorrow I’ll have to start again, doing my best to remind her that she already has everything she needs, even if the other stuff is shiny and tempting.