Gratitude Attitude

I’ve been having some really weird dreams lately. I don’t know if I’m eating too much late at night or what. But a dream I had the other night sparked an actual memory. This led to some reflection on a comment I often hear regarding teens.

Have you ever thought, or heard people say something along the lines of “kids today don’t exhibit the polite and respectful manners that we were raised to have.” Or “why don’t kids appreciate everything they have?”

Back in 1999, when my daughter, Ashleigh, was in second grade, she and I attended a Girl Scout Mommy-Daughter dance. Exciting stuff! Our troop had worked really hard on creating beautiful (award-winning, actually!) centerpieces for our tables. Ashleigh and I had dressed up all sparkly and fancy.

The facility hosting the event had created a magical ambience. The lights were dimmed, and the girls’ eyes were bright. A disco ball overhead sent rainbows skittering around the room and over the girls’ smiling faces.

Just before the dancing began, while we sat at our tables, an announcement was made. In the middle of each table’s carefully crafted centerpiece sat a collectible Millennium Beanie Baby bear. They were awarding it to the girl at each table whose birthday was closest to the new Millennium!

Ashleigh grinned wide. Her birthday was December 25th, a mere five days from New Year’s Eve. (Yes, she shares her special day with the greatest guy who ever lived! But back to my story…) Nobody else at our table was even close!

I reached carefully amongst the foil stars and glitter of our centerpiece and extracted the collectible bear, handing it to her with a matching smile of my own.

Then, from beside me I heard:

“Mommy, I want that Beanie Baby!”
“I’m sorry honey, Ashleigh’s birthday is closest to— ”
“But I waaaant it!” The child’s voice ratcheted up to a full-blown wail.
“Sweetheart…” the girl’s mother said, slightly exasperated.
“Puhleeeeze, mommy. Puhleeeeze can I have it.”
“How about if I buy you one tomorrow,” the mother said soothingly.
“But I want it now!” The girl’s mother looked on helplessly as the child began sobbing inconsolably.I remember thinking, “Buy her one tomorrow? Are you kidding me!”Then before I realized what was happening, Ashleigh had extended the precious bear toward the crying child. “You can have it if you really want it.”
The girl immediately stopped crying and accepted the bear, squeezing it tightly to her chest.

My jaw dropped, and I’ll admit I was torn.

On the one hand, that was a lovely act of kindness on Ashleigh’s part and I wanted to hug her and tell her how proud I was of the compassion she’d shown (which I did). But on the other hand, I was ticked! What the heck! This was a basic parenting 101 misdemeanor—rewarding bad behavior!

Now someone could argue that this particular child was still little, and sensitive, and didn’t really understand the concept behind winning and losing. And should we really hurt her precious budding self-esteem by actually allowing her to experience “losing”?

Um…you know what, I have to say, “Yup!”

I don’t think Ashleigh’s actions, or the girl’s mother promising to buy her one the next day, really helped that child in a positive way. I think what actually happened is the child learned—had probably already learned—that this type of bad behavior got her the results she wanted. Got her what she wanted.

So, here’s a thought: Before we complain that kids today don’t have gratitude attitudes, or exhibit politeness and respect like they should, well, hmmm…maybe we parents need to examine more closely whose fault that might possibly be?

Quote of the Month

The most essential factor
is persistence--the
determination never to allow
your energy or enthusiasm
to be dampened by the
discouragement that must
inevitably come.

~ James Whitcomb Riley ~

Evolution of a Teenager

We’re back from a relaxing family vacation in the wilds of Canada. When I was a kid, my parents bought property on the Bruce Peninsula, right on the shores of Lake Huron. There was no sandy beach, just these flat, rock plains. When my siblings and I were little, we loved exploring the craggy shoreline and creating fairy-tale hideaways amidst the moss-blanketed trees and thick ground cover of the woods. It was always an exciting adventure going there on vacation.

Until I entered the teen years that is. Then, going up there became a total drag. I mean there was nothing to do, nobody to talk to, nothing to see, and nowhere good to lay out and work on my tan. (Those rock ledges were darn hard!)

Years passed, and my parents built a log cabin there inviting Chris and me to visit soon after we were married. I rolled my eyes and sighed deeply for the entire five-hour trip. I did not look forward to that long weekend at all! We arrived and Chris was immediately captivated by the rugged beauty of the place. He thought it was “cool.” Cool?

Seeing the place anew through his eyes, I actually came to cherish it again. Not the way I had as a child running free, but as an adult. I now appreciate the unusual rock formations, plant life & hiking trails that can only be found there. The raw beauty of that peninsula is such a rare find today, especially for those of us living in present-day suburbia.

Once they were born, we began bringing our children up there each summer. We’ve missed going the past two summers. So this summer, I suspected at ages 14 and 16, they would react a lot like I did, bored with the lack of civilization. Only one T.V. station, no X-Box, Facebook, IM-ing or cell phone reception.

But apparently, my children are way more evolved teenagers than I was.

We hiked around the rocky Niagara Escarpment and saw beautiful waterfalls. We hunted for rare orchids and the area’s infamous carnivorous plants that trap small bugs for nourishment. Joshua particularly enjoyed snapping pics of those.

Both kids recently discovered photography and couldn’t get enough shots of the amazing sunsets there. The colors morphed and reformed by the second, reminding me of an old Ziggy cartoon where Ziggy is sitting on a cliff watching this amazing sunset scene unfold in front of him. The colors are dazzling, and Ziggy is just sitting there clapping his hands saying “Go God!”

One night, after a round of board games (what are those?), we set out our folding chairs, and tipped back our heads to watch God in action. You don’t see stars like that in the ‘burbs. No siree! We searched for constellations, and watched the phenomenal light show of shooting stars. Joshua commented on the amazing fact that God really does know each star by name. Of course that didn’t stop him from naming a star himself. “Bob” is now officially part of the Big Dipper.

Just before we headed home, I walked the short path to the water one last time. It was a brilliant morning. Not a soul around as usual. The sunshine shimmered on the water so brightly that it appeared white instead of the deep navy blue and ocean green that it usually does. The rhythm of the waves sliding up against the rocky shore, then slipping back again was hypnotic and soothing. Ashleigh had followed me down there. She turned and said, “I could sit here for hours just watching the waves like this.”

Hmmm…like I said, my kids are way more evolved teenagers than I was.

Good thing.

Summer Lovin'

The other day the high temp was about 90 degrees. Since my son Joshua and I were still home alone, we joined some friends at a pool for a bit. Then we went to see the movie, Kung Fu Panda, which he has been dying to see since it came out. (It was actually pretty funny!) I had promised him we could have ice cream for dinner afterwards. Our family always tries to have ice cream for dinner at least a couple of times a summer. And since his teeth were aching from the new braces, I decided it was the perfect soft meal for us both. We went to Coldstone Creamery. We’d never eaten there but had about $25 worth of gift cards for it so it quickly became our #1 choice.

As we enjoyed our “dinner” sitting on a bench outside the shop, he whispered to me, “There’s Jane*.” (*Name changed to protect the innocent-ish!)

“Who’s Jane?”

“She’s this girl that sent me an e-mail telling me she liked me.”

I glanced over my shoulder in subtle mom fashion (blatantly staring!) at the family sitting a couple of benches over and noted a girl Joshua’s age, and someone I assumed was her older sister in deep discussion. The older sister kept glancing up to study Josh as the girl urgently continued whispering. I could imagine the conversation…

“Oh my gosh! I can’t believe this! It’s the guy I e-mailed at the beginning of the summer to tell him I liked him! I could just DIE!!!”

I turned back to Joshua. “So what did you do?”

“About what?” he said scraping the bottom of his paper dish.


“Oh, I told her we should just be friends.” He said simply.

He walked away and tossed his paper bowl into the trash can. As he made his way back to me, I noticed the girl and her older sister whispering even more animatedly to each other. Staring. Pointing. Staring. Pointing some more.

“Well, that wasn’t obvious,” he said to me, arching his eyebrow.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Total flashback to my own youth. It was actually pretty enlightening. I recall doing the exact same thing when out with my own girlfriends in middle school and early high school. We thought we were so smooth; and we thought the “cute guy” was completely oblivious to us. Now I felt like I was in an alternate universe. Instead of relating to the giggling girls, here I was with the “cute guy.” Freaky.

Had we really been that blatant?

On the other hand, we hadn’t prefaced our whispering/giggling/pointing/staring with e-mails (formerly known as “letters”) declaring our interest. Not too long ago, I had a discussion with some mom friends about how girls today are so much more forward than they were. Calling, e-mailing and texting boys to “ask them out.” I mean what’s up with that?

I took in my son’s dark eyes and hair, his dimpled smile. I’m so not ready for this! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important for girls to have confidence and all, but I’m not so sure I like it where my son is involved. Nope. Not sure about this at all.