Yesterday, almost from the moment the kids got off the bus, things seemed to spiral downward. Whenever Eric works late (like he did last night) or is gone on a hunting trip and I've got the kids solo it seems the tendency for attitudes to fly downhill fast is much greater. (I do not know how single parents do it. I am so thankful for my husband!)
After dinner my son was in tears over having to clean his room. My request wasn't unreasonable, I couldn't make his bed after I washed his sheets without stepping on something. It was beyond time. He felt it wasn't fair because he wasn't going to have any time to play before bed. (The biggest struggle for Daniel with school isn't academics, it's the loss of personal time to do what he wants to do.) To add insult to his misery, I had helped the girls clean their room because I was moving furniture in there. (I love change and my value of stewardships encourages me to move furniture around, rather than buy new. I change the girls' room often.) So it seemed even less fair to him.
It quickly became obvious that this was what I call "a moment". It could go either way. I could escalate things by being firm and insisting he just buckle down and do it. Or I could allow this to be a teachable moment. In our family, and maybe yours, the most teachable way is eye to eye conversation, not directives or instructions, but the back and forth is really important. Dispelling the heat of the moment helps too.
I told everyone to stop what they were doing and get their pajamas on and teeth brushed and to meet in the living room. That gave me a couple of minutes to gather my thoughts and a few supplies.
Earlier this month I had cut out some fall colored leaves from card stock, knowing that sometime during the month I wanted us to make a thanksgiving tree. I grabbed my Bible, the stack of cut leaves, a black marker and a hard writing surface and sat down on the floor in the living room. When my munchkins gathered around we started talking about what it means to be thankful. We talked about how we are called to be thankful, even when we don't feel like it, even when we are grumpy because we don't like everything going on. We talked about how what we choose to focus on affects our attitude. So, if we choose to focus on a blessing, we become thankful.
We each took turns telling each other something that we are thankful for that I could write on the leaves. Our list included everything from our three cats to each other, to an upcoming three-day-weekend, followed by a four day weekend.
Then it was Gracie the Holy Spirit used to prick my ungrateful heart. After her big sister mentioned how thankful she was that we had lots of food, Gracie said she was thankful that Daddy could fill up the freezer. So I wrote, "Thankful for... a daddy who is a good hunter." Those weekends when he is gone and I get so grumpy I really should be decidedly thankful for the blessing of a hubby who frequently fills up our freezer with good organic meat at a much more reasonable price than what I have to pay at the grocery store.
Gratitude. It changes us all. How have you been helping your children learn to be thankful? Leave a comment and let us know.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:15-17