Last week we celebrated my son’s 4th birthday. It wasn’t a big affair like my daughter’s barrel racing party – in fact, I prohibited any friends from coming – but I still threw a little get together in honor of my boy.
This is the first year that Garrett made party planning easy for me. He really knew what he wanted: a cake with a red combine on it, ice cream, a toy Case combine, a lawnmower, an excavator with tires (the tracks on others always fall off), a Mack truck and a John Deere sprayer.
Between my husband and I and my parents we got him everything he wanted (I was so happy he likes inexpensive gifts!). And a talented lady from our church made a cute combine cake. It was absolutely everything he wanted. I knew it was going to be perfect. (Can you see where this is going?)
On the day of his birthday we watched one of his favorite movies, played tractors, let him choose what we had for breakfast, lunch and supper and just had an all-around day of Garrett. My parents came out the evening of his day and ate cake and ice cream with us. Garrett not only got all the gifts he wanted that night – he also got a few more neat ones my parents and the mailman brought from friends and other relatives.
After he opened his last gift he played on the floor with his new things for a few minutes and then was ready for more. With my sweetest mom voice I quietly told him that he had opened everything. I pointed out all the great features of his new toys too and offered to play on the floor with him. But instead of taking me up on my offer, Garrett put on his most grumpy, spoiled child face and yelled, “I want more and more and more and more toys!”
I blushed a few shades of red and prayed that my parents hadn’t heard his tirade. I could only imagine what they were thinking about this bratty, ungrateful kid we were raising. I went to pull Garrett aside and give him my speech about how much more he has than all the poor kids in China, but thankfully my husband took over (he is so much better at discipline!) and gave him a much more age-appropriate discussion in the back room.
Everything was fine after that and Garrett spent the rest of the evening happily enjoying his guests and new toys. I just blew off the incident as a moment of childhood misbehavior and moved on.
The next day though, Garrett was at it again. He was still not happy (thankfully we had no guests to witness it) and was looking for more toys and had made a big new list of things he wanted.
My husband and I have always made it a priority teach our kids to be kind and thankful and his attitude was starting to make me angry. After what seemed like the hundredth complaint to come out of his sweet little mouth I snapped (and am not proud of it!).
I grabbed the laundry basket and starting chucking toys in – old toys, new toys and especially favorite toys. I wanted this to be painful. As Garrett yelled in protest I grabbed more toys and shoved them in the basket and I mumbled about our stupid small house and the lack of storage and how the kids needed separate bedrooms …..and then, like a thunderbolt from heaven it hit me.
Sure, I had been talking to my kids a lot about being thankful, but I hadn’t been acting thankful.
I’d fallen into a discontent attitude. Complaints under my breath had become commonplace in our home – I’d been gripping about everything from my weight to politics. Even our family prayers at night had become a place for me and the kids to vent our gimmes. No wonder my son was complaining. He was acting just like me.
I apologized to Garrett and had another thankfulness talk. This time though, I made sure I was listening to what I was saying.
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