Heads up: This post is going to start with an overflow of superlatives and then continue on with sprinkles of research data, quotes and even a TED talk (to bolster this mommy blogger’s thoughts).
Recently my super generous sister presented me a luxury holiday sans children. To ensure I could actually enjoy this holiday, my super supportive mother and equally encouraging husband decided to take over mommy and household duties with full gusto while my always understanding father managed without his wife.
Needless to say I had an awesome holiday with my sister with not a care in the world, cause I knew my kiddos were in safe and loving hands.
I think… I hope… I thanked my family enough for this fun break. And then I wondered if I had expressed this gratitude in front of my children. The old adage that ‘virtues are caught not taught’ would apply to the virtue of gratitude too. So had they seen my exuberance in thanking my family? Did they understand that my family had come together in full support to ensure I had a great time?
It’s never too early to show them these ways. When Peanut was learning to express himself, he had accompanied me to a supermarket. On not being able to find an item I had enlisted the help of the supermarket staff. When they got me the item I casually said – ‘thank you so much’. Peanut caught on those words and literally every time I did something for him he said ‘ thank you so much’. It lasted for a week or so till another phrase took his fancy.
When a meal is prepared, out comes a loud bursting from Peanut – THANK YOU MAMA FOR THE YUMMY CHEESE TOAST! Yes it’s only a cheese toast and yes when he’s excited his voice is practically booming! Or when Naani made him puri, chana and Prasad. Yes! A much more elaborate meal compared to the cheese toast! (he was having this combination for the first time) he exclaimed LOUDLY – THANK YOU NAANI FOR THE WONDERFUL SURPRISE. And literally with every bite he said the same thing (no exaggeration).
Needless to say the receiver of this booming gratitude can’t help but be moved. And all for a meal! As William Arthur Ward said “ Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings”, so making a meal turns from a chore to a joyful process.
And it’s not just the receiver of this ‘thank you’ who feels good but also the person expressing his/her gratefulness. In a 2003 study from the University of California, Davis, grateful people reported higher levels of happiness and optimism, as well as lower levels of depression and stress. High school students who score high on gratitude have more friends and higher grades, while more materialistic students report more envy, lower grades and less life satisfaction, according to a study in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
It is time we take cognizance of the world we are actually living in. In this world of invasive technology where at a click of a button we can buy anything our heart desires and that our pockets can spare, children are fast getting used to being given what they ask for ASAP. We, the technology… don’t let them long for it enough… enough for them to feel a true sense of gratefulness when they actually get what they want.
Most kids I know, including mine, have far too many toys and entertainment options than necessary. Yes we can provide for our children, so why not indulge them? But sometimes at what cost?
Hopefully not at the cost of imbibing virtues and surely not at the cost of being grateful.
Toddlers by their very nature tend to be egoistic – the world revolves around them and for them. But children who are learning to be grateful may peep outside their world every so often and may see that the wheels of their life are being turned very tenaciously by their caregivers, that it takes mommy some effort to make that cheese toast, that papa works hard to buy them that toy helicopter.
“No one is born grateful,” says life coach Mary Jane Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude (Conari, 1999). “Recognizing that someone has gone out of the way for you is not a natural behavior for children — it’s learned.”
As a parent I say, let the lessons begin…
Chanced upon this TED talk by Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. Two things stood out for me -‘Happiness is born from Gratitude’, ‘Grateful living, that is the thing’.