Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another 4-Letter Word

The other evening, my boy was getting ready for bed.  While brushing his teeth and at the same time reading a book in his room (he's our little multi-tasker!) he almost choked on his toothbrush when he came across a surprising word in the book he was reading.

"Mom!" he shouted, "There is a bad word in this book ... and it's a kid's book!"

Seeing as he was standing there with a book about Balaam from the Bible, I could guess the word in question.  While I was a tad bit surprised as well that the author didn't choose to use the more mild word "donkey", I explained that in this context, it wasn't a bad word, just an old word.  Aaron let it go and didn't go showing his sisters - which I was happy about!  You know how it is ... the discovery of a taboo word spreads like wildfire!

It made me chuckle a little because this isn't the first time that one of the kids has come running to me having just heard or read a "bad" word.  I have been informed of the words "stupid", "dumb", "shut up" and "jerk" ... all "bad" words in our house.  But I have recently discovered another 4-Letter word I'd like to add to the list:  FAIR.

Specifically as used in the phrase, "That's not fair."  Followed by a pout and grumpy "hhmmph".  Blech!  Every time that I hear my kids say that, it makes me cringe, close my eyes and clench my jaw.

Whether it's as we drive home and pass the house with the new pool
 ~ "That's not fair!"

Or when someone gets a bigger scoop of ice-cream 
~ "That's not fair!"

Or when one child opens their birthday card to find a crisp $5 bill
 ~ "That's not fair!"

Or when an older child stays up a little later 
~ "That's not fair!"

Or when someone gets "new" hand-me-over clothes 
~ "That's not fair!"

Or when someone has a friend over to play
 ~ "That's not fair!"

Grrrr ... is that enough?  Do you need me to continue?  I have plenty more examples! :)

Nothing takes the air out of a special treat like someone declaring that it's not fair.  Somehow that special thing you just received or the news of some special activity you get to do is tarnished because of someone else's grumpiness.  It just doesn't feel as good as it did just a few seconds before.  Personally, I suddenly feel like I am somehow wronging the "un-fairer" by enjoying something for me.  It's the old selfish switch-a-roo!

Now I'd like to say that we grow out of this propensity to rain on someone else's parade, but unfortunately I know a few adults who still do this.  In light of this fact, I am trying now to train up my kiddos to appreciate what they have and be able to celebrate others and their special treats.  It will make them much more fun to be around when they are older!

It is completely natural for us to be thinking about ourselves ... but we can change our point of view!  I think that this re-programming is two-fold and I alluded to it in the previous paragraph:  thankfulness and appreciating others.  First, thankfulness.

As we head towards Thanksgiving, it is fitting to be talking about this all-too-important topic of thankfulness.  We are so very, very, very, very, very (maybe just a few more) very, very, very blessed.  Everywhere we look we see our prosperity, our comfort, our luxury, our many, many things.  And then when we are able to look past the physical blessings we see that we are surrounded by people who love us, that we enjoy good health, and that we truly do not lack anything that we need.  It is actually a tad bit overwhelming to consider the many aspects of our lives that we should be grateful for.

For several years we have enjoyed a little Thanksgiving craft that has helped us to catch a glimpse of all that we have.  We have created a Thankfulness Chain to hang in the living room.  I cut about a hundred paper strips in warm fall colors.  Then we all sit and brainstorm the many things, people and comforts that we are grateful for.  We try to be specific (listing people by name), but also we try to think "outside the box" by listing even the little things (soap, our vacuum and warm socks).  I write each word on a strip and then we roll the strip into a circle (with the word facing out) and staple it.  With the next one, we loop it through the previous circle and continue on until we have a lengthy Thankfulness Chain to drape in our home.  It's a wonderful, visual testament to God's goodness ... and a terrific reminder of all that we have.

I have also noted that many of my Facebook friends are posting as their status each day something they are thankful for ... another great way to keep our perspectives from veering off into the realm of "That's not fair!"  Keep it up ... I enjoy seeing what comes to each of your minds.

Next, appreciating others.  Now we shift our view from what we have to what others have ... and celebrate them!  That means getting excited for someone else when they get a promotion at work ... even if we think we deserve one, too.  It's applauding someone else's hard work at school ... even if we work hard, too.  It's celebrating someone else's special treat ... even if we don't get any.  It's looking past ourselves to see the pleasure that the other person is experiencing and not stealing one itty-bitty iota of their joy.

This is a tough one ... sometimes the Self-Entitledment Bug bites us and we start to feel sorry for ourselves.  Boo-hoo!  This feeling that I deserve this or that ... just because.  With emphasis on "I".  If we let this selfishness run it's course, we run the risk of losing our ability to see those around us and their needs ... or their joy.  We have to start looking outside of ourselves!  There so much more outside of us to enjoy! :)

I heard a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter recently that I thought was kind of fitting.  Maybe it will give you some ideas for your own Thankfulness Chain if you are needing help getting started. :)

I hope that I can pass on to my kids a deep gratitude for the many blessings in their lives and a sense of appreciation for those around them ... and they can remind me of all that I have, too!

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