The One Thing That Makes Everyone Grateful
Being a first-time parent is the one job where no one has any prior experience, and you are extremely aware of your lack of qualification from the very start. But it doesn't seem to matter. We learn as we go, we roll with the changes, and we begin to take things in stride.
When our kids were younger and fighting over something, I would try to toss in a life lesson whenever I was doling out whatever discipline was necessary. One punishment was most memorable.
It was the dreaded Gratitude List.
After breaking up one of their more epic battles, I recall telling my son and daughter to strongly consider this fact - that they were the only two siblings that each of them would ever have. We were a family of four, that's it, no one else would be coming who could potentially "take your side." We were all we would ever have, and this was all they were ever gonna get.
And for that reason, I then instructed them to make a Gratitude List of the most important things in their life. I didn't give them any examples, so I was impressed and humored when they presented their first drafts.
Yes, I said 'first drafts.' This was a punishment for fighting, not an essay contest for someone to race through and win. This was not going to be an easy, quick assignment. I wanted them to put some thought into it.
My son scribbled away, and went right for the toys and pets, to the top of the list. The parents and grandparents' names filled out the list nicely and he added a couple of TV shows for a quick a Top Ten list.
I scratched the TV shows and a toy (and maybe one pet) and asked him to think again about other areas of his life.
He returned with a list that included a cousin's name, some school friends, and finally...his sister's name. I asked him how did her name end up on your list? He acknowledged that she made him angry sometimes, but he still loved his little sister.
She was only five years old, and her list was nearly exactly the same as his. I was amazed! These two children were the most angelic pair of kids possible, and my heart was filled with love and pride. When I told her about it, my wife was a bit more skeptical.
Years later the kids would admit that my daughter had simply copied off my son's list. For years I thought my kids were special, insightful, even profound. Turns out they were profoundly capable of conning their old man.
But to this day they still remember the Gratitude List.