Monday, November 29, 2010

A Gratitude Journal

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was more about grievances and guilt than gratitude.

To tell you the truth, it's not a holiday I care for much at all. Between the food, most of which appeals to me not at all, and memories of the women heading to the kitchen after a two stress-fraught days of cooking and an hour of gluttony for hours of hand washing and drying china, silver and crystal while the men retired to the rec room to watch football. Ugh. Give me crepes any day.

For my children, I want the holiday to be less about the cut glass relish trays of perfectly arranged olives, pickles, carrots and celery (though that is my favorite part of the meal), and more about feeling gratitude for the relative comfort and ease of our lives. It's not always easy, I know from personal moments of crankiness and general ungratefulness, and it's always easier to feel grateful for something when you know the experience of not having it (case in point: when I had four-day weekends every week I did not appreciate those days nearly as much as I did this past weekend's rare length now that I work full time). But of course I don't want my kids to go hungry or homeless in order to understand what they do have here. Nor do I want to burden them with the sorry state of the world...they're too young to curl up in the mental fetal position of despair that I feel much of the time.

I'm not sure how to really instill that sense of gratitude in them, other than doing my best to model it. We do take a moment before dinner each evening to "Thank the farmer, the gardener, the cook, mother Earth and father Sun" (and, occasionally, "Mother Hera and Father Zeus"). And each year on Thanksgiving Day, we write a small note about what we feel grateful about in a little journal I made.

It's a small gesture, no doubt, especially compared to all the suffering that many people in the world endure, and from which we have--by shear luck of birth--so far been spared. But it is a start.

How do you teach your children gratitude?

P.S. Don't forget about my blog anniversary more day to leave a comment!


  1. That is a lovely tradition. We do talk about what we feel grateful for each year around the meal. Also, we try to start taking care of animals for the winter at this time of year - feeding birds and such.

  2. What a great way to cultivate gratitude in your kids. This year, for the first time, we went around the table and talked about what we were thankful for. (The 18 month old was less reflective than the rest of us.) Corny and overdone, perhaps, but sweet and meaningful nonetheless.

  3. We do a nightly "thankful" before eating, which has become fairly empty because the kids say the same thing every night (Mommy and Daddy) and then argue about including each other. "I'm thankful for you if you're thankful for me."
    Dan and I talk about what we're thankful for a lot (good food, our warm house, friends etc...) so I think the kids absorb gratitude and the acknowledging thereof.

  4. We say what we are grateful for before eating dinner and I ask the girls what their favorite part of the day was just before going to sleep...


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