Children have a very special way of acting as mirrors. Through their eyes and expression we can see all of our worst habits and most of our redeeming qualities reflected back to us. Our mannerisms are mimicked. Our frequently used phrases roll off their tongues with ease. Like little sponges they soak it up until they are dripping with all we are. That is why it should come as no surprise to me when my daughter says things like, “Mommy, I want. I want. I want.”
As adults, her father and I make similar statements often. So often, in fact, that it has almost become a running joke between us. We have on more than one occasion stayed up really late surfing the internet for things we “need” to buy. The list is extensive. We’re talking boats, motorcycles, hot tubs, playhouses, cars, more pets, whatever you or I could imagine. Sometimes it is fun to dream, but truthfully, regardless of what we have, we always long for another little slice of the pie. Material possessions don’t even account for 60% of our desires, either. We can see what’s out in front of us (better jobs, more vacations, etc.) and we want more of it, all of it, and we want it now. And yet, I turn around and tell my daughter to be thankful. I know, pretty hypocritical of me, right? It’s been brought to my attention through my little mirror of a girl.
I don’t blame this more, more, more mentality entirely on us. This way of thinking and living is so prevalent in our society that it almost seems normal to feel the way we do. But how can we be grateful, truly grateful, for what we have if we are constantly starving for more? How can we teach our child to be appreciative while we are always on the prowl for the next best thing? How can we obtain pure joy without establishing true gratitude? How can our daughter?
The answer sounds simple. Be thankful. But putting that into practice takes practice. It requires mindfulness. You have to choose to wake up and make note of what you DO have, instead of what you don’t. You have to train your eyes to see your life a little differently. You have to be mindful of what you do say about what you have, and careful about what you don’t say regarding the things you lack. You have to choose to be grateful for all of the little blessings, whether it’s a warm cup of coffee or just three minutes of peace in the bathroom. Being thankful and expressing that sense of gratitude is way easier said than done and yet, it feels absolutely essential to our happiness and, more importantly, our children’s.
I have a grateful muscle. I really do. I used to write or make a mental list of all I was thankful for each day (not just in November, but always, every day). What I found is that it is genuinely all of life’s little joys that bring me the most happiness. And I do have so much to be grateful for, but I have to press pause long enough to appreciate all of those things. Sometimes, I forget to flex that muscle, especially now that the responsibilities of motherhood consume so much of me and my time. Most days, by the time I sit down at the end of the day, I am so wiped out that I can barely remember what we ate for dinner two hours prior. So, trying to recall what I’m thankful for seems like an added task. On the contrary, motherhood brings about an extra need for that appreciation-not only so I can be a happier, more fulfilled mother, but because my daughter deserves to be taught how to exercise her grateful muscle too.
Starting today I am going to challenge myself to say thanks every day. I am going to do my best to shine a light on everything I take for granted. I am going to be mindful in expressing my gratitude for things that seem mundane, both aloud and alone. Starting today I will be thankful for all I have. Will there be days when I fail? Yes. Are there going to be days filled with heartache where the good gets lost? Probably. When a new day dawns I will pick up and carry on my journey in appreciation. Then, one day after all the time and effort I’ve spent, I will look up at my mirror. In the reflection I will see a little girl beaming with joy, whose grateful muscles are strong. We’re talking, ripped, okay? Then she will say, “Mommy, I have. I have. I have.”