Life is definitely cyclical. Behavior, I suppose, is even more so. There are times when my children exhibit such gratefulness for what they have. Their comments are plentiful and heart-felt. They know the value of money and that we don't have it to spend as we please. They show their appreciation for us as parents, often thanking Jay for working hard for our family and for me for my daily toil.
And then, we have today. I knew that it would be a tough afternoon - first day back to school after a long Christmas break. Over the past two weeks, we deviated from our normal schedule quite a bit (later bedtimes, later wake times, more t.v. than usual, extra sweets, limited responsibility) and I knew that getting back into normalcy would be require patience and diligence on my part. But, I still wasn't prepared for Ethan's attitude and question as he prepared to complete his homework.
Ethan: Mom, you said you were going to order us lunch in January.
Me: I'm sorry, Ethan, I forgot with the holidays. I think at the time we were trying to hold our expenses down as money was a little tight. Plus, you had to order December and January at the same time.
Ethan: Well, you promised.
Me: I am sorry, but you need to understand that sometimes my intention can't always work out.
Ethan: (tears starting to well) Well, everybody orders on Moe's day (Mexican day). I am embarrassed when I have to eat my packed lunch.
Me: Are you serious?
Ethan: (with more anger and less crying) Well, why don't you order my lunch? Everybody orders. I am the only one who doesn't. It is embarrassing to be the only one to walk to the tables instead of going through the line. It is not fair.
Me: (really trying to control my temper). Ethan, can I tell you what I not fair? Only getting one meal a day. Or better yet, being 8 and dying of starvation because you are given NOTHING to eat. There is nothing for days and days and days. And, you come to me with anger and tears because you are embarrassed by your food?
Me: Come here, Ethan. (he hesitated, so I had to repeat myself) Come here. Instead of thinking about all the things you don't have. Instead of this attitude of complete ungratefulness, I want you to focus on the fact that God has given you food to eat - every day He has given you food to eat. You need to apologize and ask for forgiveness and Ethan, thank Him.
So, he came into my arms and he prayed. His eyes filled with tears as he listed reasons to be thankful, and he apologized to me and to his Father.
I know in his heart he knew his transgressions. But, I know this won't be the last time we visit this topic. For children that are afforded opportunities and given nearly everything they would ever want, things are never enough. With the holidays behind us, schedules returning to normal and a new year upon us, I think it is time for me to evaluate my parenting plan. I know I need to continue building on where my children place their own self-worth. Comparisons to others is only going to multiply and they need to know where to put their gratitude.