Henry (my seven-year-old) and I have been battling more than usual lately. I think it's just second-grader angst. Or maybe it is mama-of-a second-grader angst. Regardless of who gets to own the anguish, it seems that Henry is often less than satisfied these days. He wants more..... More stuff. More control. More "right now." More everything. And it just drives me crazy. The big C.R.A.Z.Y....
We really work on the gratitude thing at our house. It is a major part of our every day. It's the foundation of our family. And sometimes - actually most times - Henry really gets it. Like - he takes my breath away - get's it. But every once in a while, it's pretty much the complete polar opposite. And because this is such a big deal for me, it's all I can do to keep from screaming:
"Just be grateful, dammit! And if for no other reason, do it because I said so!"
(Wouldn't it be great if that "because I said so" thing actually worked?!)
So here is a case in point. A re-enactment of this past Saturday, time-lapsed into a single paragraph:
Mom: "Henry, guess what? Today we're going to see a movie with your sister. You are in charge of choosing the movie. Wait, you get to bring your cousin along too. And we'll stop and get treats on the way. Whoa - now your cousin can stay for a sleepover after the movie. Oh, and your friend Josh can come with us too and he can stay for a sleepover. We'll get a big bucket of popcorn at the movie. And on the way home, we'll stop and pick-up a take-and-bake pizza for dinner. Pepperoni is still your favorite, right??? Oh. Um. No honey, I'm sorry, we aren't going to get pizza delivery this time."
Henry: "No fair. You always say no. I never get anything that I want. Bleeehhhhhh!"
Oh lord, please help!! (Breathe, breathe.....insert "mama-centering-moment-on-the-go" here).
Of course, it seems the harder I try to "force" the gratitude, the more we get entangled in this struggle. I know Henry feels like I am in control of so much in his life. Which is true. I am. I'm the mama. And I know his pushing back - well, it's only natural. I'm sure some child development expert would tell me it is completely age-appropriate. But in the heat of the moment, that is no consolation.
I want a grateful kid all the time and I want him now!
So we struggle on. But, as I've been pondering this the last few weeks, I've realized that because this "gratitude thing" is so important to me, it's been our focus. And almost without thinking about it. I find myself just randomly telling the kids how much I appreciate someone. Or what I loved about my day. And I hear them say it back to me too. All the time.
You know, maybe this is exactly how this whole mama thing works. The things that are most important to us in life get the most light and attention, just when they need it most. For us, the lesson of gratitude is stronger than ever exactly because Henry is pushing back. It's the "squeaky-wheel" parenting effect. And right now, my dear seven-year-old is covered in grease!
In the long run, all I can do is hope that at the end of the mama-marathon, my kids will get it, more often than not. And considering we're all in it for the distance, I just have to trust we'll be fine....
We'll be just fine.
We'll just keep holding on to the gratitude every step of the way.