Thursday, August 25, 2016

Zoe vs. Gratitude: Is It Worth It?

How important is gratitude? Both the everyday thank-you, like the one you say when the barista hands you your change, and capital-G Gratitude, as in the count-your-blessings feeling you have when you look at the World As A Whole, and think, oh my god, aren't I lucky sitting here in an air-conditioned cafe sipping my half-sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato?
Just like you, dear civilized reader, I was raised to say "please" and "thank you." And naturally I want my daughter to learn the social niceties as well as how to be a good person. It's part of my duty as a parent.
But that parenting philosophy met its true test this week, one I'm not sure the ideal of Gratitude will survive.
This week Zoe had to write thank-you notes.

Teaching your children to be thankful

She'd had her family birthday party a week before and, now that she was turning six, and could write, ish, I figured it was time she expressed her gratitude more formally.
I also thought it'd be good for her to write because school starts soon and we've done exactly nothing to reinforce what she'd learned in kindergarten.
But apparently I'm the one who'd forgotten all I learned. As with the pain of childbirth, I must have repressed the pain of supervising Zoe as she did her homework.
My announcement of Project Gratitude was met with tears and a general falling about. As if I was threatening to pull off her fingernails or, worse, never polish them again, and if I did, she'd be stuck with one color choice forever. Probably white. The horror!
As she carried on, I did what I usually do when she's being unreasonable. I mocked her. Oh, the suffering! I said. How could your mother do this to you? She must be the most terrible woman.
Zoe countered: How could she spend time writing these eight cards that would take FOREVER to write when she HAD TO play?
I said, Well, I can take all those toys away that you just received as GIFTS from people WHO LOVE YOU and then you'd have plenty of time.
Her face drained of blood. Then she muttered under her breath, heaved a shaky sigh, and sat down, the Saddest Child in the World, rejecting one pen after another because using the proper writing implement was important, even if this meant she was eating into the time she probably could've spent playing. I suppose you can't rush an artist. (Drama queens are artists, right?)
As she searched for the Holy Grail of pens, I wrote out our family's names, thinking she could use that as a guide and write out her cards with minimal supervision---meaning I wouldn't have to stand there and spell out "Grandma" fifty times while she deliberately misheard my n's and m's. 
And there were two grandmas to thank, people!
The cold hand of regret squeezed my soul in its gelid fingers as I realized she, the person who moments before had had an emotional breakdown over having to do this, would also take much longer than necessary doing it. She has a "Queens" Grandma and a "Connecticut" Grandma, so obviously she needed to spell out their locations as part of their names. I said, "Grandma" would suffice since when each one opened her envelope and actually held the card in her hand, all would become clear.
But she wouldn't have it. A thing worth doing is worth doing well is a phrase I've never said to Zoe. And never will. I'm all about cutting corners. I'm the Meghan Trainor of shortcuts.
Wisely, I had revised my original plan, which was to have Zoe mention each person's gift in particular and also say "Thanks for coming to my party!" But that was Advanced Thank-You Card Writing. And exclamation points invited unnecessary smiley-face art within their bottom dots. Doing the names---each letter she formed shaving another year off my life---was taking long enough on its own, so I edited the message down to six words (one each for her age): "Thanks for my gift. Love, Zoe."
That would've sped things along, I think, except for the added wrinkle that, after recovering from her initial shock, Zoe now wanted to "have fun." Each card  had to be "perfect," which meant they would look far from it, since when she made a mistake she crossed it out so she could rewrite it. That and she had to add art, lots of hearts, an occasional cat.
So we're about a week in now and out of eight cards she's finished three.
Prayers are appreciated. Just don't expect a note of thanks.

Zoe: 146; Universe: 0

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Zoe's list of things she is thankful for that she "wrote" when she was 4.

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

I'd be so grateful if you . . . clicked here to subscribe.

No comments :

Post a Comment