“If only we had a bigger yard…”
It was such a simple, harmless, and convicting statement from my six-year-old.
Convicting because they weren’t really his words. He might have said it but the thoughts were mine. He was only repeating an attitude he witnessed in me. Offhand comments throughout our day. The unintentional attitude that something better is just around the corner.
We live in an age of entitlement. Always waiting for the next moment because we believe whatever comes next will be better, bigger, and brighter. That what we have now is just holding us over until we can get to the next stage.
Not too long ago I witnessed an older child, nine or ten, throwing a full out tantrum in Costco. From what I overheard her mother wanted to buy a cheaper brand of tablet and the girl wanted the more expensive one. For whatever reason, the girl, in that moment, believed the more expensive, more popular tablet would make her happy. And she just had to have it.
We could laugh at that, or shake our heads. Even if the girl’s mother had caved in and bought her the tablet she demanded, would she be happy? I’m guessing, not.
Likewise, my son won’t be happy with a bigger yard if he can’t appreciate the yard he has now. I won’t appreciate a new house if I can’t be thankful for the home I have now.
Thankfulness is taught, it’s learned. It needs to be practiced and chosen every single day. Without it, we cannot truly appreciate anything.
During the last couple of months, I failed. I failed to be an example of gratitude to my boys. Instead, in my discouragement and exhaustion, I let my thoughts become those of self-pity and discontent. If only we had this or that. If only we had a different house. If only I wasn’t so tired. If only my husband wasn’t working so much. If only.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, all my “if only’s” weren’t so harmless after all. And those little ears were listening and they followed right behind as children often do.
So to make a change we decided to have a day of NO complaining. It was more difficult than thought it would be, and I slipped up more than once.
When my husband texted to say he would be late again. When the boys spilled juice over my freshly washed floors. When I forgot to back up my latest blog post….and lost it all. I needed practice, which meant I needed to extend my challenge into the next day, and the next, and the next. In fact, it’s still ongoing.
To teach my boys gratitude I need to start with myself. Kids are the best kind of motivation for self-improvement, aren’t they? During my ongoing challenge of no complaining over the past week I noticed a change in my own attitude.
I’m happier. I’m enjoying my home and my time with my boys. Thankfulness is becoming second nature, taking place of the complaints that were once there. It doesn’t mean I don’t want more. I do. And I will continue to pray for more. The difference is, I also want what I have. I’m learning to appreciate my days, even the days that don’t go as planned. Appreciating the house we are currently trying to sell, and yes even our little backyard.
Gratitude comes when you stop believing that the best is yet to come. It’s already here. In the little moments, in what’s already been given to us. Gratitude in the smallest of things ensures we will continuously be content as change comes, no matter the circumstance.
5 Steps to Gratitude
- Choose gratitude. I know this is a no brainer, nonetheless, it’s true. I am learning that you can appreciate, enjoy, and be thankful for almost everything in your life if you really want to. It really is “mind over matter”. My current challenge of “no complaining” meant I had to replace any thoughts of complaining with gratitude. I have to choose to say thanks when I really feel like complaining.
- Wake up, say thanks. Don’t look at your phone or get out of bed until you have thought of at least one thing you are thankful for today. It will shape your morning and follow you throughout your day. You might even be amazed at just how many things you have to be thankful for when you wake up tomorrow morning.
- Pay attention to the little things. Slow down and be present. Go for a walk. Play a game of pretend with your kids. Our days are made up of little moments. Imagine if we can learn to notice and be thankful for each one.
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Take care of what you do have. We’ve been trying to sell our home off and on for years. When the discouragement sets in and I find myself becoming more and more discontent with our house, I clean. I wash the floors. I light a candle. I add a vase of flowers to the kitchen table. Anything to help me appreciate what is right in front of me.
- Be generous. Being generous with everything you have is something I believe comes when you are truly thankful. It comes with the knowledge that all you have, all you own, is a gift and not truly yours. Generosity is a symptom of gratitude.
What are you thankful for today? Share in the comments below! I’d love to get to know you!
“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”