Teaching gratitude, not “thank you”.
Every so often, just when I think I’m doing an okay job with this parenting thing, something or someone comes along and shines a light on it all in a brand new way. A light that makes me stop and think.
And realize I have a long way to go.
Such was the case the other night when I had a chance to hear award-winning author, Annie Burnside speak about her book, Soul to Soul Parenting: A Guide to Raising a Spiritually Conscious Family.
Annie’s one inspiring person. She’s as connected to her inner self as anyone I’ve ever met. She’s also real. Believable. She had me hooked when (in front her two teenage daughters—representing 2/3 of the Burnside brood) she shared the realities that take place on a regular basis inside their family home.
“Ask any of my neighbors!” she laughed. “We have real, normal, regular, ordinary conflicts. Daily.”
But it was when she later, after sharing something else, that she really had me hooked. “I don’t want to teach my kids to say ‘thank you’ to someone just because it’s polite and kind. I want them to say it because they feel gratitude. From a place deep inside. A place they are very aware of.”
Her comment has been dancing around in my head ever since. It’s caused me to gaze out the window. It’s made me lose myself in thought at the kitchen sink. It’s been the root of some long stares at the ceiling. And it’s forced me look at my kids—as well as myself—and ponder.
Am I raising children who feel? Am I giving my children the comfort and safety of connecting to those unexplainable emotions that stir from that place deep inside? A place that is uniquely theirs?
And here’s what I’ve been realizing to be my real hopes for my kids:
- I want them to be people who look out over the Grand Canyon, the prairies of Kansas, or the white caps off of the coast of Maine and feel the deepness of awe. True awe.
- I want them to be lost in time, someday, as they hold their own children in their arms, and be amazed by how miraculous their baby’s fingerprints are.
- I want them to see into the eyes of someone unexpected. A store clerk. A cab driver. A barber. And I want them to feel the true sense of connection with another human being.
- I want them to have the regular need to pause and watch the fantastically amazing world of something that catches their eye. A bird. A droplet of water on the window. A spider web. An airplane.
- I want them to hear a song and feel as though the words were written for them. And them alone.
- I want them to feel the warmth of comfort as they savor the taste of a meal prepared from the hands and heart of a loving cook.
- I want them to feel alive. The energetic richness of alive where every muscle, every flinch, every pulse in their body becomes a gift. Even in their darkest moments.
- I want them to feel validated. A validation that gives them an absolute conviction that every day has purpose. That every minute they are given can be a minute of good. And I want them to feel the joy in validating others.
- I want them to feel purposeful.
- I want them to feel responsible. Accountable. I want them to feel as though they are a mirror for others.
- I want them to feel the love of their dad. No matter where they are in the journey of life.
- And yep, while I’d like them occasionally to feel the need to clean their room, help with yard work, and maintain peace with their siblings, I want them to feel the gratefulness that Annie spoke of.
For the life they have the privilege of living.