It was so much easier to teach my son about gratitude when I was extremely poor. It was a hard, but teachable moment having him watch me put groceries back on the shelf or rifle through trash bags full of donated clothing from friends. Those moments of deeply rooted gratitude for the small things we did have are hard to find now that we’re no longer living in poverty.
Part of the issue with ingratitude and entitlement with my son lies squarely within the margins of his development — he’s 11 1/2… When I tell my friends that he’s being ungrateful, I get a lot of pats on the back and, “Brace yourself,” comments because we are not, in fact, having a unique experience. But I’m seeing more and more that because I am ABLE to give him more, I do. And because he gets more, he’s growing up in a world where he thinks this “more” is baseline.
I have carefully constructed a career path that not only brings me joy but also affords me the opportunity to be available to my son. I drive him to school, pick him up from school, attend most practices (his stepfather and I alternate duty there) and go to all his games… It’s important to ME to be present and available to him and to demonstrate to him that he is a priority in my life over work and friends and really, pretty much everything. And by just BEING there, he’s starting to act like I’m *supposed* to do these things for him… Like, not having to ride the bus is a right, not a privilege.
My son got a rude awakening this morning when he, in all seriousness, declared from his bathroom after several attempts to get a response from him that he was pleading the fifth.
Then, when my look of shock and disbelief surprised him, he scowled his little prepubescent brow at me and declared that it was his CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to not answer me.
So, the morning went downhill after that (surprise) and I lectured him about how this house is not a court of law and he doesn’t get to plead the fifth.
I know I can’t get all THAT angry at his mouthy, sarcastic back talking — it’s kind of a cornerstone of who I am. But I need to figure out a way to help him read the room because that shit was NOT funny this morning. Right now, it’s a little funny, but at 7:15 this morning, I was NOT laughing.
And honestly, I’m looking around at my community and I’m like, “Fuck, man. This is kind of your fault, too!” We live in such an entitled culture — people cutting in the carpool line (oh my gahhhhhhhd I could write about this for WEEKS), people walking past garbage on the street and not picking it up, people dripping their coffee on the counter when they’re putting their cream in it and not just wiping it up themselves with a damn napkin! Yesterday, I watched an able-bodied, well-dressed woman reach for a bag of chips off the shelf at the grocery store, knock down another bag and look at it, look up at me looking at her (with, no lie, probably a stank face because resting bitch face is real life) and then spin on her high heels and walk away, leaving the stray bag of chips in the middle of the aisle like snack roadkill. I noisily picked it up for her and put it back on the shelf, but she never looked back and — I’m being real here — I don’t think she really even was AWARE that I was trying to make a big deal out of her bullshit.
On the ride home from driving him to school this morning (which may be off the table from here on out), I was riding in the left lane and the guy next to me in the right lane was in SUCH a damned hurry that he had to keep tapping on his brakes to not ram into the guy in front of him. We were all coasting at about 50mph in a 40mph zone, so it was just kind of like, “Hey guy… Chill the fuck out.”
After Atlanta Highway split, the impatient brake tapper was finally able to break free from the confines of traffic and he sped off, I’m guessing at upwards of 65mph at least. A few minutes later, as I was approaching the light where I turn to go to my neighborhood, there’s the speedster, approaching the red light and he is traveling in the right hand lane and there’s a car ahead of him, already stopped at the light. There is no car immediately to his left in the next lane, so he just sort of slides over into that lane, no blinker, cutting off the person that was approaching the light in the left hand lane… ON HIS PHONE.
And I wanted to park my car and go SCREAM at him about how fucking entitled he was driving.
I guess the hardest part about teaching entitlement and gratitude is that we have to, as parents, embody it. That’s how you teach it — you can’t just yell gratitude into a kid. (I need to hear that one again, “Jami, you can’t just yell gratitude into a kid.”) There’s no way for us to go back to being so insanely poor to teach him gratitude. It’s up to me to try to frame my position around the things we have and the places we get to go and the things we can do from a place of gratitude that actually resonates as true emotion.
I can’t fake gratitude. I know that I’m grateful for what we’ve got, but I need to work harder to show him that I’m grateful.