The gratitude season is the precursor to the ingratitude season. While we count blessings in November, which feels like the shortest holiday season of the year, by December, people, particularly kids, get focused on what they don't have. Livie, age four, has just reached the stage where I really don't want to walk her through the toy aisle at Target. Suddenly everything she never knew existed is a must-have.
So today, I was very excited when she was made extremely happy by a very simple thing. We were having lunch in Carls Jr., for which she was already extremely grateful, having told me that it is her very favorite restaurant (This is hilarious to me, because I can remember her eating there maybe four times, and of all the wonderful places I've taken her to? Really? Carls? But I digress.) Even though we didn't get a kid's meal, the manager gave us the kid's meal toy, a truly hideous red, shiny, hollow plastic thing that looks vaguely like a baby triceratops breaking out of an egg.
We were going to pretend to go to the dentist when we got home, because like all younger siblings, Liv wants to emulate her big sister, who has chronic toothaches at the moment (a subject for another blog).
"When I'm at the dentist and they give me a toy," Liv said with a twinkle in her big blue eyes, "I really hope its a baby triceratops in an egg shell. And that it's red. And shiny."
Ah, the joy of something new. Wouldn't it be great, I thought as I listened to her, if she could walk around her room, look at all her toys, and be excited about them? Instead of wanting the new Barbie set complete with brown horse and plastic carrots that she saw in Khol's and now desperately wants, what if she went into her room and decided to want the 12 Barbies she already has, complete with pink horse and plastic apples?
Livie was only playing a game in Carls, pretending that what she wanted most in the world was the object already in her hand. But it hit me that she was expressing gratitude exactly how our pastor has been extolling our church to for a decade, as he gives the same sermon every Thanksgiving weekend. He says, "Grateful people want what they have, and don't want anymore." He encourages us to look at the things God has already given us and say, "I love my house (car/spouse/body/job)! It couldn't be any better!"
I'm no different than Liv. My wanting knows no bounds. Just today I almost bought a cardigan sweater that looks almost exactly like one I already have; its the brown horse versus the pink horse all over again. The only difference is I don't throw temper tantrums in Target when I see something I can't (or won't let myself) have. I said as much to her last time she was flipping out in the main aisle of the store, and another mom overheard me. We made eye contact and shared a moment as we passed one another.
I don't think showing Livie all her toys just before Christmas will necessarily make her a more grateful child now, but it is something we are working towards with both kids. As for myself, looking at all my stuff does help me want less. Jeff and I recently took a booth at the MOPS boutique, selling our vintage Christmas stuff, and when I saw all the vintage goodies we'd amassed to sell, I thought, "Well, no more flea marketing for me. I'll just shop in my own attic."
But then we went to a flea market (Jeff made me go!) this weekend and I bought another vintage ceramic tree, bringing our grand total up to 26. It was only four dollars, but still. I guess Livie and I both have a lot to learn.