Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude and kiddos

One of the coolest, work-related things I've done happened when I was at non-profit; we had an incentive program for participating in healthy behavior programs. We could choose things like eating five servings of fruit or veggies every day (some of the servings are kind of big, don't think you can just pop a cherry tomato in your mouth and call it 1/5 of a day), exercising 30 minutes a day, or writing down three things you are grateful for each day. It was such a little commitment, but such a big payoff (I was already a pretty healthy eater, but getting five servings a day is not always easy and definitely made me eat healthier. I should totally revive that one, family-wide). The one program that was the easiest to continue was the gratitude journal. I loved it because even on horrible days, I could look back and think about how nice that one lady was at the grocery store, or how much fun I had at dinner with my husband, or how at least something awful was over. And it'd always make me feel better.
Anyway, I follow a lot pediatricians and parenting authors online. And around this time of year, a lot of them are talking about cultivating gratitude in kids. Except the funny thing is, there isn't a lot of research to support this. In fact, NutureShock has an entire chapter on how the findings about how great gratitude is for adults (makes you happier, less depressed/anxious, more prosocial, etc.) have not been replicated in kids. Instead, studies have shown that kids can have the opposite reaction. Perhaps, they resent the feelings of helplessness that gratitude could inspire at a time of life when independence is the goal? I like the idea one pediatrician had, which was to emphasize what makes you happy (as opposed to people I should thank). The thankfulness can sort of naturally evolve as a child's ability to understand and express gratitude evolves. Sometimes, at bedtime, Hannah and I will close our eyes and take turns listing things that make us happy. It's sort of adorable to hear what she comes up with. I can't wait until Maggie is old enough to do the same (right about now, I'd say that list would consist of things like: dog dogs, meow meows, sausage kolaches, and babies).
Here is my list: things that make me happy
  • king sized beds, even though I just sleep on the very edge no matter the size
  • holiday decorations
  • cute, little emails I get from my husband while I'm at work
  • toddler belly laughs
  • the way Hannah starts stories with, "when I was a baby" and "next year" and finishes the story with things like, "I used to climb on top of the house" and "I will go to the beach with my friends, all by ourselves!"
  • Maggie's obsession with telling her family, "I love you"
  • getting into a just-made bed with freshly cleaned sheets, still warm from the dryer
  • family who live so close by
  • how much my girls love their aunts and uncles and grandparents
  • how the first thing Maggie wants to do each morning is give Hannah a hug
  • coming home to a dinner on the stove (prepared by my wonderful husband)
  • when I can leave a room and nobody notices and starts screaming (ahem, Cork. joking, it's just Maggie)
  • when I get to use the bathroom all by myself
  • the way Maggie squeals and claps with uncontrollable joy when I play Five Little Monkeys in the car
  • a glass of wine with my husband after the girls are in bed
  • HGTV
  • cooler weather
  • when I think Hannah is about to push Maggie, but she was really about to hug/kiss her 
  • when my husband fixes/does something I thought we were going to have to pay somebody to fix/do
  • a full tank of gas
  • a dog who cleans up after Maggie (while she eats, I mean. I'm still working on teaching Junebug to change a diaper)
  • my minivan and its magical doors
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