It’s a common complaint from all parents, and likely one that my own parents would have shared with me had I have been listening at the time: why aren’t you more grateful for what we give you?
I believe that gratitude is an emotion in short supply across our culture, but where I most notice it is with children.
Not just my own, though there’s no question that I’d be happy to see my children be more grateful for the amazing opportunities and life they lead.
It’s endemic to our culture of consumption somehow. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just part of the extraodinary self-absorption of childhood and development. For a child, the world really does revolve around them (and for most adults that never changes, but that’s another story).
What brought this to the fore was an informal end-of-school ice cream social that we fourth grade parents hosted for the children yesterday. A half-dozen containers of fancy ice cream, three containers of sliced strawberries, and a hot spring afternoon.
What’s not to love?
Except for every child that said “thank you” when given their bowl (I was the chief server, so I was on the proverbial front lines) there were three that said nothing at all and two that complained about it in some form or another instead of expressing their gratitude.
“Vanilla? That’s it?”
“That’s all we get?”
“Can we have seconds?”
“Can I have more strawberries?”
It was quite something to watch, and while we parents were careful to reinforce the nice manners of the few children that were appreciative of free ice cream — free ice cream! — it was a drag to see how spoiled the kids are.
And even my 10yo angel, when we got into the car, complained that it wasn’t her favorite brand of vanilla ice cream and that she was disappointed by that.
“You just had delicious ice cream with fresh strawberries at school and you’re complaining about the brand of ice cream?” I responded
“Well, yeah, it was good. I just wish it was Breyers or Ben & Jerry’s. I love Ben & Jerry’s!”
That gratitude piece. It’s something to work on.