At the end of November, two days after Thanksgiving, my oldest and first daughter, Edie, will turn three.
And almost three, apparently, is the age when you become aware of your birthday and what it means, because for the past month or so, birthdays have been the big topic of conversations at our house. Her birthday, my birthday, her daddy’s birthday and her friends’ birthdays, she wants to know all about when, where and what we’re going to do and then she makes us all Play Dough cake.
Because next to birthdays, it’s Play Dough all the way.
Yesterday when we were out playing in the yard, Edie declared that she had to go inside. Why? To check to see if it’s her birthday yet. I’m not sure where she was going to find the information, but she was checking nonetheless.
And she’s been planning. A pink mermaid cake. A pool party. And when we ask what she might want for a birthday present, she tells us she’d like a Frozen Fever doll.
And while almost-three seems to be when the power of the birthday starts to take on full meaning, I can’t help but be aware that it’s also the time to begin to teach gratefulness.
Manners? Well, we’ve been working on that since the kid started forming words, but gratefulness, thankfulness is a bit different I think.
And I’m not sure how to go about it at this age. I mean, at almost-three, it’s hard for a kid to understand that just because they want it doesn’t mean that they get it. The great blue cup meltdown of October 21st was a good example of that very communication gap.
Denying her requests for ice cream before breakfast is also one of those learning moments.
But when the girl wants a pink mermaid cake and a pool party for her third birthday, this momma wants to give it to her. Because I want a pink mermaid cake and a pool party for her. I want to make her happy on her special day. I want to give her a Frozen Fever doll even if I’m not sure if they actually exist.
So how do I give her the things that she wants while instilling the idea of not just being happy, excited and full of sugar induced glee, but actually being grateful?
I’ve followed my little sister’s lead on this a bit since my daughter has been able to understand it. She’s a guidance counselor and I’ve watched her talk to kids, my nephew and my daughter included, and I like her straightforward style. When someone does something nice for a child, she explains it. She says “Isn’t it so nice that gramma brought you that new shirt? You are so lucky to have such a nice and thoughtful gramma. Make sure you say thank you!”
I see them understanding it. And it makes the gift giving or nice thing even more special with a big production of acknowledgement.
And because my little almost-three-year-old is pretty much a walking carbon-copy of my behavior, good or bad, I’ve started to pay attention to the way I’m “out loud” grateful in my every day life. When my husband brings the groceries in from the car for me, I try to remember thank him. I give him a hug. I tell him I appreciate him.
I try to do the same when my daughter does the thing I ask of her the first time. I try to remember my “please” if I want her to say “please.” And I’m trying to become more aware of my “thank you show” because I want her to understand the importance of doing the same.
Because in the end, it makes us all feel good, to be the pleaser as well as the thanker. And, let’s face it, they are watching us, even when we don’t remember it.
The occasional “what the h@#*” bomb coming from their tiny mouths always reminds us.
So I guess if I want to raise grateful kids, I need to practice not just being a grateful parent, but a grateful person. Because if my bad behavior wears off this well, I can’t help but think a little of my good might catch too.
And when Edie presents me with another pretend birthday cake make out of Play Dough, I will hug her and tell her how lucky I am to have such as a thoughtful almost-three-year old daughter so that she might consider how and when to use own thank you.
Happy Thanksgiving readers! You’ll find some fun stuff in this issue, as well as a little more reflection and advice on this whole gratitude thing. If you need me I’ll be trying to figure out how I’m going to turn a cake into a pink mermaid….