I've always stressed to my children how important it is to say "please" and "thank you". Fortunately, it is something that they never forget. I notice it all the time for even the smallest things. I love that.
Today while we were having lunch, I told my three youngest children that we were going to have a new family project: The Gratitude Box.
"No spelling bee anymore??" asked Mya.
Yes, I'm the corny Mom who has spelling bees with her children instead of sitting in front of the television wasting brain cells.
I began to explain my idea for a Gratitude Box. I think I saw Zach, just shy of 13 years old, roll his eyes a little....but he listened.
"We're going to choose names out of a box each day." I said, looking at three curious faces. "You will then write something nice about that person...anything nice. Something they are good at, something nice they did or just something you want to say. If you pull your own name out of the box, you can write something you like about yourself. How does that sound?"
"OK! Can we start RIGHT NOW???" asked Maxx excitedly.
Apparently this was going over well. I was really happy that they were receptive to the idea, although I kind of knew that they would be. Giving them a positive "voice" is so important in this world of negatives.
We began right away. We found a box, paper and pens. I wrote each of our names on a separate piece of paper and we put them in the box. Everyone pulled one out. That would be the person they would write about today.
"I got myself!!!!" yelled Maxx.
"I got Mommy. Yipee." said my freckled faced Mya.
Zach shook his way-too long hair out of his eyes and said, "What am I going to say about my 7 year old sister??"
I knew this would happen. Zachary often feels he's much too cool and much to "mature" to do this sort of thing...much less compliment the little sister who sporadically tattles on him. I knew this was going to be tough for him because he is a great kid but he's also very much in that "me, me, me" teen-aged stage.
So, we went ahead and got our pieces of paper out and started writing. I picked Zach's name and immediately thought of how great his laugh was last night when he was watching a movie with Maxx. He sleeps late, skateboards and eats me out of house and home. Sometimes he doesn't laugh as much as I wish he would. Something about hormones I suppose. So, the laugh stood out in my mind.
I wrote: "Zach has such a great laugh". I'm sure he probably was thinking I'd write something about how he should clean up after himself or get his hair out of his eyes.
Soon everyone was done writing and passed them to me to read.
"Mommy cooks so good", wrote Mya. My immediate instinct to correct her grammar and say, "Mommy cooks so well" was stopped when I looked at her proud little face. Mommy cooks good it was....and I loved it.
"I love my animals", wrote Maxx. He was the only one who picked his own name. He loves animals so much that it was almost certain that he would write something about his passion.
"Mya will be a good Mom because she tells me what to do alot." wrote Zach. AHHHHH....was that positive? Well, about as positive as you can get for a teenager.
"So, Zach, do you think that was positive?" I asked
"Yeah, it was sort of", he replied with that deep voice that I'm having a hard time getting used to.
"Could you try again? Maybe add something that is a bit less about you and what bothers you?" I tried to ask nicely. You have to ask nicely when you have a teen-aged boy. This I am learning.
He did it. He wrote another one after a few minutes of though.
"Mya is good at drawing and will definitely become an artist". He was smiling. Most of the time it's a smirk but he was really proud of himself. I didn't tell him that because that's an "AW Shucks" moment and he'd get all flustered with me for being sappy.
Mya loved it. She draws all the time so it made her really happy that her sometimes too cool big brother noticed her talent.
It was an interesting lunch. As a family, it's important to keep things positive. It's so hard with all these different personalities under one roof. The Gratitude Box turned out to be a great thing. They all asked when we would do this again...so we all decided together that it would be every night at dinner. We would pick names in the morning and we'd then be able to put our answers in the box any time during the day. I would read them at dinner time.
In a world that is often full of sad/bad news, high prices, tight budgets and stress, this was an awesome way to connect with my kids. A little goofy or too "Walton Family" for you? Oh, well...it was great fun and now will be part of our dinner conversation.
Maybe I can inspire someone else to do this?