Thirty Days of Gratitude

For the month of November, I decided to have Nathan and Ellie keep a gratitude journal. They’re only six and three, but their “I want that’s,” I NEED that’s,” and “Mom, can’t we please just get that’s” were a little out of control. Jon and I felt like we were raising entitled, spoiled kids without even meaning to, so we decided to spend 30 days focusing on gratitude.

I went to the craft store and bought a spiral bound journal and some leaves with the words “I am Thankful For:” printed on them. I think they were supposed to be place cards for Thanksgiving dinner, but they would do. Each night, after we brushed teeth and read books, both of them would name one thing they were grateful for.

Obviously this didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had orchestrated. Some nights we forgot, which meant we had to double, triple, and—once—quadruple up on our leaves. Occasionally one child would fuss at the other for “stealing” their thing they were grateful for (parenthood is a rich mine of ironic gems like that one).

But aside from the hiccups in scheduling and the squabbles, the leaves that filled our journal over the course of the month surprised me.

They were grateful for people.
Their grandparents. Their cousins. Even, gasp, each other.

They were thankful for experiences.
Math, art, and reading together each night.

They were grateful for God and Jesus. For our cat and Nana and Grandpa’s horses. Even my three-year-old—an age which is not known for their deep sense of appreciation for their many blessings—talked about being thankful for her best friend at preschool and the pumpkins we had painted together as a family.

Glaringly absent from their leaves of gratitude? Stuff. I had expected an itemized list from Nathan of every Octonaut Gup vehicle he owns. From Ellie, I expected the same—because if there’s one thing she’s thankful for, it’s her big brother’s toys.

But that wasn’t the case. Nathan gave his toys one passing, all-encompassing mention on one day. The rest of the time they talked about how thankful they were for the realest, most lasting parts of their lives. As the month progressed, I realized maybe my worries were a little misplaced—sure, shiny toys grab their attention; they’re kids! But it’s feelings of love, acceptance, and togetherness that rule their hearts and minds.

I feel better about our prospects as we move into December, even though no matter how much of a “simple holiday season” I aim for, blind consumerism always crashes the party. Turns out the kids are all right. They know what matters most, and that’s something to be truly grateful for.