I struggle with this daily. How can I ensure my children are grateful for the experiences they have. The definition of grateful is ‘feeling or showing an appreciation for something done or received’. In a world of stuff and experiences at a young age, are we teaching our children to be grateful?
When I was a child, we lived on a farm during the 1980s drought. The house was so old, the mice would sneak through the cracks and it was not unheard of to catch 60 mice a night in a bucket trap in the laundry. We had an old Reno car and when it died, we bought a yellow, square nosed Gemini, we were so excited to have heating in the car, the three of us kids huddled in the front on the way to the boys soccer on a Saturday morning. It was complete luxury!
Lollies, chips and lemonade were only for birthday parties or Christmas morning. We went out for dinner to the local takeaway kebab shop once in a blue moon and we went on holidays to the beach once a year in January. Life was pretty simple. We went to school, my parents both worked and instead of a babysitter or afterschool care, we walked 10 blocks to get to Mum’s work and had to do the ‘find a words’ in Women’s Day to keep us entertained or sit in the car and read a book with each other.
We had sleep overs with our friends most nights. One family of friends had 11 children and we would drop by and pick a few up to take to our house for the night, which was half an hours drive away or they would catch the bus home with us.
Entertainment was super easy. I had two brothers and we would get on our bikes and ride down the drive way for what seemed like hours. When we were a bit older, the boys would dink me on their motor bike or we would ride our horses down through the creek. Dad would go up the paddock to feed the sheep and we would sit on the back of the ute for hours, help out in the sheep yard or sit in the ute and listen to the radio. We were fed well, had a good education, were well cared for and generally had a pretty easy existence.
I did not fly on a plane until I was 16 years old, I got my first bike when I was 5 (and it said 4 on the handlebars), I didn’t have an iPad, computer or xBox, I didn’t have a good car, I never went to a coffee shop, I had a one doll with broken toes.
For my children, life is different – it seems complicated and super luxurious. The juxtaposition is huge. My children went to Disneyland when they were 5, 3 and 1. They sit in a car with leather seats and a DVD drop down screen. My 4 year old has an iPad. We live on the harbour and go sailing in our own yacht most weekends. If we are not on our sailing boat, we are on the harbour paddling our kayaks to get a pie and coffee. Our house is a 4 bedroom sandstone mansion built in the 1890s with a three tiered garden. The children have travelled in business class to America with lie down seats and televisions in the seats. They get to do gymnastics, swimming, soccer, netball… the list goes on (but don’t get me started on the pressure of afterschool activities!). My 7 year old has high 5ed every Sydney Kings basketball player. They have been on the harbour to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart. We have take away dinner, on average once a week, because our days have been so big we have run out of time and energy to cook dinner – like on a Tuesday when our day starts at 6am and we get home at 6.30pm after the kids swim practice. These luxuries did not exist in our childhood.
A lot of people might read this and think our kids are spoilt. Because of our lifestyle, we don’t go out of our way to do these awesome things with our kids. This is just the pace of our life. I am not trying to brag to say how much we have, I am trying to work out how to help my children be grateful for their life and what is around them. It is a constant daily battle.
My children can still read, laugh and play imaginary games. They can still relate to adults well and know how to behave in public (mostly). They know how to ride a bike and a scooter. They enjoy going to the beach and the pool. But when they ask for maltesers after already having a pie and a packet of chips during a special occasion and then crack it when the answer is no, my husband and I find it hard to show them what being grateful is. Maybe it is because they are 8, 7 and 4 years old and just kids living in a city.
Is it important to instil a sense of gratitude in our children?