Gratuitous Gratitude

Posted: November 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Holidays, Miss Kate, Moods, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Sisters, Working World | 9 Comments »

The cold weather this time of year always makes me grateful.

There’s something about it getting dark early and being all chilly out. I love the evenings. The freshly-bathed girls are snuggled up, safely asleep in their beds. I’m on the couch under an afghan, toe-to-toe with Mark. He’s peering into his laptop, or telling me how a meeting went. Or we’re submitting to some IQ-sapping TV show.

It’s cold outside, but it’s warm in here. Our cupboards are packed with food. Our closets full of clothing. Our beds hold sleeping children, nearly perfect in their unconscious states.

There’s nothing swanky or indulgent about our set-up. No rare art on the walls or luxury cars in the garage. But we are healthy. We are here. We are blessed.

Since the cold set in a couple weeks ago I’ve spent evenings this way, awash in deep contentment. Sometimes I’m nearly giddy with our riches, with all that we have.

But my Seasonal Excess Gratitude Disorder isn’t something I’ve passed on to my children. Just the opposite, in fact. Lately they seem steadfastly stuck on grumbling disquietude, making blatant displays of their lack of appreciation.

Like on Sunday. I took Kate to see a matinee of what turned out to be a really charming, well-acted play called Cinderella, Enchanted. It was one of those adult-performed kid-attended productions where little girls come gussied up in princess attire. But it was Berkeley, so it wasn’t too sickening. You know, the kids wore Birkenstocks under their frocks, and were doused in patchouli.

Afterward, game for more feel-good family fun, we went to an old-timey ice cream shop. We ate linner (as opposed to brunch), and Kate and her friend ordered ice cream for dessert.

It was a lovely day. What kindly, well-mannered child wouldn’t appreciate that her mother blew off her favorite yoga class to spend the day catering to her every childhood want?

Not mine.

We stopped to rent a movie en route home. At one of those places that’s still actually a building where live (albeit socially-inept) people work, and where there are ceiling-high shelves of actual DVDs that you look at and pick out and carry home with you. It doesn’t involve The Internets at all!

And in that same old world vein, they have those candy dispensers. The ones where for a quarter you get a sweaty palm-ful of Skittles or those hard sour candies that’re shaped like little bananas and other fruits.

Kate saw these machines and wrapped herself around one like a rabid koala bear. I looked over my shoulder from the New Releases to give her a definitive, “No, Kate.” At which point she hunkered down like some protesting hippie setting up house in the branches of a soon-to-be-chopped tree. Had I not pried each of her fingers one-by-one off the glass candy-filled containers, she’d likely still be there, trying to gnaw her way through to the sugar.

“Two minutes ago you ate a bowl of rainbow sherbet THE SIZE OF YOUR HEAD!” I growled as I dragged her by the arm through the parking lot. “And I took you to a Cinderella play! Most kids stayed home and played with Legos today. And now you’re begging me for CANDY? And acting like life is unbearable because I said no?”


Mark noticed this with Kate lately too. After running errands with her he cornered me in the kitchen. “What’s up with her and all the begging? My God, there were even things at Office Depot she wanted me to buy.”

And let’s not get started on the Halloween candy. Negotiations for it begin AT BREAKFAST. “I ate all my oatmeal, Mama. Can I have just one lollipop?”

If Mark and I weren’t such candy addicts we’d have tossed out that crap a week ago.

The thing is, especially with candy, I know the siren’s call of drug-like sugar is hard for kids to resist. But sometimes even while they’re eating something they’re already asking for more. Is it too much to want a brief moment of appreciation? Even from a two- and five-year-old?

Sure, we have some instances of unexpected gratitude. Kate will look up at me from dinner, eyes shining and say, “Mama, this is so delicious. Thank you!” Or Paigey will snug up to me after I’ve read her a book and say, “Fank you, Mama for read book. I yuv you, Mama.”

It’s sweet and sincere and makes me think all the time I spend like Sisyphus, rolling a boulder uphill while calling over my shoulder, “What’s the magic word? What do you say when someone gives you something? Wash your hands after you pee!”—maybe some of it actually IS getting through to them.

But then yesterday I did what working mothers across the stratosphere do daily—busted ass out of the office to take the kids to gymnastics. This felt especially foreign and hellacious since I work freelance and intermittently. I’m unused to fleeing the office, jetting to two schools for pick-ups, struggling to pull leotards onto the kids in the parents’ waiting area, then foisting them towards their classes with a head-throbbing wave.

But like some rain-averse dog, Kate put on her breaks. She was unfoistable. I scuttled her towards her already-underway class and she started shaking her head, lip quivering, and muttering, “No.”

“NO?” I whispered in her ear, trying to keep my expression neutral for any onlookers. “What do you mean, NO?” The veins in my left temple throbbed, taking my headache up a level like a jagged peak on the yellow graphs on those aspirin bottles.

Well, no, it turned out, meant no. No class. No, I’m not going. Unh-uh. Just not in the mood.

And since I couldn’t imagine any way to force this to happen, though God knows my brain was racing to figure one out, I relented.

Fine,” I hissed. “You sit over there and watch your sister.”

Then Little Miss Monkey-See Monkey-Do Paigey Wigs (her new official title), decided after ten minutes of participation that she was also not going to take her class. Apparently the sight of Kate sitting on the sidelines picking through the uneaten remains in her lunchbox was more enviable an activity than Paige could bear to witness.

And so, with my sister in tow who was visiting from SoCal (and no doubt thanking God that she has dogs not kids), we left. Fifteen minutes after blasting past old women in crosswalks to get there on time.

And. I. Was. Furious.

I shoved shoes on those little leotarded girls and said to them in no uncertain terms, “Daddy works hard to pay for these classes. This is a special thing you are lucky to be able to do. And if we go through all the trouble to get here and you refuse to go, you… you… you WILL NEVER TAKE ANOTHER CLASS AGAIN!”

This, it turns out, was the most rational thing I could think of to say. Nice, huh? I’m sure there was some other way—nearly any other way, really—to have handled it better. But that was all I had in the moment.

I especially like the attempted guilt trip about Mark’s work. “Your Daddy’s risking his life in a coal mine right now so you girls can learn to walk on a balance beam!”

Keep it classy, Bruno.

Ah well, one more place I’ve likely been put on some Mommy Dearest watch list. Hell, it was the last class of the session anyway. Besides, per my impassioned threat, my girls will never take another class ANYWHERE ELSE AGAIN. So, who’s to worry?

I have had the thought that some of this recent whiny, tired, begging, miserable behavior has been brought about by, of all things, the one-hour time change. It seems silly that one hour could take such a crippling toll on the behavior of my children. But when they’re playing they’re whining for dinner. At dinner they’re ready for bed.

And when they are supposed to be sitting back and savoring all that is good and wonderful and blessed in our lives, they are asking for more. Or different. Or, none at all.

The holiday season is not quite upon us. I have a little time to sort this out so when we arrive in North Carolina where we’ll spend time with Mark’s extended family, we’ll all be aglow in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

But just in case it doesn’t come together in the happy heartfelt way I’d like, I keep returning to this one thought. Wouldn’t it be nice if—instead of just making you feel sleepy—tryptophan also made you grateful?


9 Comments on “Gratuitous Gratitude”

  1. 1 Lynoth said at 3:40 pm on November 11th, 2010:

    awwww, momma… crack me up. I promise, thoughts of selling them to the zoo do not make you a bad mother. Every mother on earth has them at least once in a while, whether they’re honest enough to admit it or not. I love you blog, you obviously are a great mother negotiating the challenges with as much grace as humanly possible. Kudos to you for surviving this phase! (you will, I promise)

  2. 2 kristen said at 3:57 pm on November 11th, 2010:

    sell them at the zoo? veeery interesting idea…

    thanks for reading, lynoth! i appreciate the vote of confidence.

  3. 3 FAB said at 7:33 pm on November 11th, 2010:

    Before any sales are made to any zoo, be advised that granfdathers have a first option on any anticipated sale…..and that option is hereby exercised !!!!!

  4. 4 Margot said at 9:27 pm on November 11th, 2010:

    I just read this aloud to Raf as he shoots darts in our office on a rare night when Alejandro is at grandma’s and I am, once again, not in labor.

    We both laughed, and I have now proved that you’re funny, and that Ali’s not the only whiny toddler throwing fits in the too-early dark.

  5. 5 Jason said at 9:33 am on November 12th, 2010:

    Sarah has been in a demanding state lately too. Most recently at a Toys ‘R Us, where she was shocked and disappointed that she wasn’t allowed to get everything she wanted in the store. The injustice! However, we have been fortunate on the Halloween candy front – they forgot about it after a couple of days. If only Meg and I had too.

  6. 6 Kerri said at 10:47 am on November 12th, 2010:

    Aww, those poor, neglected children. :-) Bouts of ingratitude in our house were met with removal of all items deemed fun, and locks on playroom doors. It requires immunity from the cries and screams on your part, though. “Sorry. When you show some gratitude for what you have, perhaps you’ll be able to have it.”

    When the TV and computer were gone, and whining continued, then the comic books went. I even went so far once as to remove the pillows from his (queen sized Tempurpedic) bed. You’re complaining about WHAT again?

    I am a very mean mommy, though.

    That said, my kid, a 13-year-old boy, loves doing charitable stuff now. He can work the rest out in therapy when he’s older.

    Look for books like Four Feet, Two Sandals or Listen to the Wind or Cups Held Out…they might help, too!

  7. 7 kristen said at 3:00 pm on November 14th, 2010:

    Thank you SO much for those book recommendations, Kerri! I just looked them all up on Amazon and they look fantastic. I added them to Kate’s wish list.

    It’s awesome that your son is into doing charitable stuff. Kate and I had some bake sales for Haiti a while back and she *loved* doing that. Her school takes over cooking and service at a soup kitchen one night a month. Of course, it hasn’t worked out for us to participate yet, but I can’t wait to.

    Thank you thank you for the comment!

  8. 8 kristen said at 3:01 pm on November 14th, 2010:

    Margot: I LOVE the image of you reading my blog aloud while Raf plays darts. Parents across America should really follow your lead! If only laughter induced labor…

  9. 9 сериал хранилище 13 3 сезон said at 9:53 pm on November 17th, 2010:

    ценно – недурственно

Leave a Reply