I haven't posted for a while - probably because I have been spending my time acting as referee between two of my children who have been struggling to get along with each other. One of these children has also been in the midst of a self-pity fueled funk about all the things she doesn't have.
One afternoon, she listed off all the things she wanted, but didn't have. She wanted an IPod, an IPad, a DS3, a smart phone and a laptop among other things. These are things that we choose not to buy for her, even if they were in the budget because I don't want my children huddled in a corner by themselves somewhere, glued to a glowing electronic device when they could be annoying a sibling or making a mess somewhere instead. This is not a judgement against others who feel these add to their children's childhood. But, personally, I think limiting video game systems to one Wii that we play together as a family every week or two a good decision for our family unity.
Besides, if my husband and I don't have IPods, IPads, DS3s, or smart phones, I am certainly not going to buy them for a nine year old. Full disclosure - I do have a broken laptop.
Anyway, after seeing my exasperation, she tried a different tactic beyond just the "I want this because all my friends have it". She said, "Mom (in that long, drawn-out whining voice) I neeeed a laptop for my education. Don't you want me to get into a really good college?"
"Yes, child." I said. "I want you to get into at least a mediocre college. Something without crazy tuition. Maybe when you are in college or even high school, we will think about getting you a laptop. You don't need any of these things in 4th grade."
Finally, she decided that she was asking for too much and said, "Honestly, there is just one thing I really, really want."
At this point, the sibling with whom she has been struggling to maintain a barely civil relationship with this past month cut in and said, "I know! You just want Jesus in your heart."
This, apparently was not what my daughter was going to ask for, and the bickering continued.
At this point, I felt the need to deliver a much needed life lesson to my child who has many wants and obvious lack of gratitude for what she does have.
I asked her, "What do you want when you are old enough to have anything you want? I want to help you get that."
Enthusiastically, she began listing off every possible item she could dream of. When she finally stopped to catch her breath, I told her that the only way she would get these things was to work hard at a job. She reluctantly acknowledged this. Then I explained that just going to work wasn't enough. She needed to be able to complete her work competently, cheerfully and above her employer's expectations in order to advance enough to be able to afford these things.
As her mother, it is my job to make sure I prepare her to reach the dreams she has for herself. "I love you so much," I told her, "That I am going to give you the chance to practice working cheerfully and diligently. Then someday, you will get paid for your work and be able to buy all the useless stuff you want." I figured it was about time for the girl to learn how to really clean a bathroom.
I couldn't believe how long she dragged it out and how many complaints she had! My favorite was when she read the label to the toilet bowl cleaner and noted that it was harmful if inhaled and that she could get unconscious from it. She cocked her head to the side and asked defiantly, "What do I do if I get unconscious, huh Mom?" I told her she could tell me she was unconscious and take a 2 minute break from cleaning the bathroom if that happened. She was not amused.
After loads of whining, pleading, and fake vomiting sounds she finally finished cleaning the bathroom.
"Great," I told her. "Now you know how to clean it, but haven't quite learned the working cheerfully part. Fortunately, we have another bathroom that needs cleaning. You will have another opportunity to learn to work cheerfully." She cleaned it, while complaining. Then she cleaned kitchen floor while complaining. Finally she cleaned the living room without complaining.
It is amazing how much better her attitude is, with a simple reminder since this episode.
I refuse to raise an ungrateful child.