This one is about Supreme Joy.

So for starters, Hi. How's it going. It's been a ridonkulously long time, and I apologize for my inexcusable absence because it is inexcusable and I know how nervous it makes you. All those sleepless nights you've endured. All those days you signed onto the interwebs, hoping to see that creepy picture of me, stretched out on a minivan in 80's mom clothes because that would mean HUZZAH! Someone is finally talking about parenthood on the internet!! And here I have, gone and left you alone for months and months. I am so very sorry.

Anyway, that part is done with now, and here I am, so you can just relax. Also? Your anxiety is not the point today. The point today, children, is GRATITUDE.

GRATITUDE people. Gratitude is THE BEST.

Now I am aware that kids these days are supposed to spoiled little wretches who think they're all definitely entitled to brand new iPhones and sports cars and European vacations, or, I don't know, whatever it is we use to spoil kids these days. And I also know that, as a mom to 4 lovely and annoying children, I want to give them things to make them happy and sometimes to make them be quiet. This is a natural phenomenon. It exists in the heart of every human parent.

But as it turns out, I don't know, I did some parenting wrong. And my kids didn't show up as entitled little Post-Millennial masters of the universe. My kids are broken. They are so broken, that they are, in fact, grateful. About, like, everything. I'm weirdly not exaggerating, guys. My kids get excited about Every. Single. Thing. In. The. Whole. Wide. World. I. Am. Not. Joking. Wow. It's. Hard. To. Write. Sentences. Like. This.

Maybe you don't believe me. Maybe you think I'm just bragging about my weird kids and their brokenness. But for proof, I have this list:

Things that will make my kids scream that they are having the BEST DAY EVER:

  • A trip to the park.
  • A large cardboard box.
  • A trip to the library.
  • A trip to Walmart.
  • Or DollarTree.
  • A McDonald's Happy Meal.
  • A "movie night" on the floor of the living room, bonus points for popcorn.
  • A funny audiobook.
  • Bubble Wrap.
  • A road trip.
  • Riding bikes in the front yard.
  • Pouring water of dry ice.
  • Blanket forts.
  • A cool looking bug.
  • Plus most video games.
  • And also most board games.
  • And every single game they've made up themselves.
  • And of course, the chance to play outside with the hose.
Obviously, there are much cooler, much more special things that also bring them mondo joy. Disneyland, for example. Or the beach. Or the fact that it's VBS week at church. These things straight up blow their minds. 

But as a mom who 1, cannot afford things like regular trips to Disneyland and 2, seldom has the time off from work to make it all the way out to the beach*, my kids aren't going to have loads of access to said cooler things. 

But if you're not turned off my lame mom-ness, and if you're interested, I think maybe I know how I broke my kids. And it's easier than you think. Because to break your kids into gratitude, all you do is... nothing.

At least, that's what we did.
Because, we didn't take them to Europe.
We didn't take them to Hawaii.
We didn't take them anywhere terribly fancy, to be honest.
We didn't buy them electronics.
We didn't take them to amusement parks.
And have only taken them to the movies maybe once a year. Maybe less.
We didn't buy them those super cute clothes, we saved money and bought them the cheaper ones.
We haven't given them their own rooms. Or a playroom. Or even sufficient square footage, probably.

See, turns out we haven't spent a ton to make their childhoods feel special. Instead, we tell them everything is special. This is a SPECIAL at home movie night. You should BE so lucky as to get these cookies. Yes I will LET YOU play outside once you've done your chores. You need to EARN your free time, or you won't GET your free time. (OH SNAP.)

Truth? I don't know entirely why my kids are so excited. I don't know why they seem to have a bent toward gratitude. Maybe it's because they don't hang out with enough cool kids to learn that everything in the world is lame and The Worst and UUUUGGGGGHHHHHH. (Although I'm sure I've got a good deal of that headed my way over the next few years.) 

But maybe it's also due to the fact that we are trying to teach our kids that they do not actually deserve anything special or fun. They weren't born with a contractual obligation to holiday trips or material possessions. And I have no problem telling them that a gift they want soooooooo muuuuuuuuuch is just outside of the budget, because mommy and daddy can't afford to spend that kind of money on 4 separate kids for Christmas.
Truth again: It hurts sometimes to say no to the kids. It hurts because even when I can barely stand them, I want to give them every good thing. And telling them no can actually physically hurt.

But then, I look at my kids. And they are happy. With their lame food and their electronics restrictions and their daily chores and their early bedtimes, they're happy. For whatever reason, they're happy. And I am grateful.

Oh quick note: Bedtimes don't count. No one is grateful at bedtime, everyone is a monster and life becomes insufferable. I just needed to make sure that was clear. Because right now, it happens to be bedtime. And I already forgot I used to like them.

*And 3, let's be honest, is old and tired and prefers to spend freetime on the couch instead of exciting adventures. 

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