"She can't have any cookies since she didn't help make them." "I'm leaving the dirty silverware for him to wash; he never does anything around the house." "Why is this my job?" "Why is she always leaving when there is work to do?"
Do any of these questions sound familiar? Does your imagination conjure up the exact whiny tone in which they were said? The accompanying scowl?
Children tend to fuss a lot (adults too, but it's slightly more subtle). They have a very rigid idea of what's fair (or not) and a highly developed sense of grievance. They can go from kind and cooperative to grumpy and resentful within seconds.
With all this time spent dodging fights and parceling out chores with exactitude (I don't know why this finely honed ability to divide everything evenly is of no avail in math class!), it's easy to forget the good.
It's too easy to focus on the kindnesses they don't do instead of the ones they do.
It's too easy to focus on the ways in which our children fall short instead of the ways in which they rise to the occasion. It's too easy to focus on the kindnesses they don't do instead of the ones they do. Those we take for granted and think they're just fulfilling their responsibility as members of this household.
I don't think any of us would respond well to such an attitude.
When children used to say to their parents, "There's Mother's Day and Father's Day, when's Kid's Day?" the standard response was always "Every day is kids' day." But is it?
In the sense that we all give to our children, it is. But perhaps in our ability to appreciate and express what they give to us, it isn't.
I was struck by this idea recently (and by my own lack in this department) when someone suggested to me that making Shabbos and having guests was so much easier for me because I have so many helpers.
My first reaction was "Are you kidding? Helpers?" Between homework demands and shopping demands (the latter being the stronger pull), who's around to help?
My second reaction was, "Okay they help but they are also so much work -- physically, emotionally -- that the least they could do to compensate for all this extra effort on my part is to help."
My third reaction was to be embarrassed by my first two and to really stop and think about all the ways in which our children help out. All the ways which perhaps I take for granted, which I neglect to express my appreciation for.
So, for my kids, for our kids, this one's for you. For driving carpool whenever asked (even if they do it because they'll take any chance to get behind the wheel -- especially to pull into the school parking lot -- it's still a kindness). For driving their younger siblings to play dates and parties and school functions. For driving to the grocery store for that one forgotten item (do you detect a theme here?). For babysitting on demand (if no one else is around to do it and they didn't have to do it the last 3-1/2 times). For stuffing all the envelopes for their sister's wedding. For making the chicken for Shabbos (the kind they want). For doing homework with their brother or sister (how could they be expected to do their own as well?). For running to get me and their father whatever we ask for (and hoping that we'll do the same in return). For taking pleasure in each other's joy (when taking a break from the fighting and resentment!).
Our children are really wonderful. And although once in a while we need to gently nudge them towards improvement in certain areas, we need to really focus on and appreciate their goodness. And we need to tell them. Very specifically. Very clearly. Very lovingly.
The days speed by in a whirlwind of errands and demands, of meals, laundry and homework. We're frequently frazzled and impatient (we frequently have good cause). But in the middle of all the chaos, it takes a brief moment to turn to our children and say, "Thank You." Here's looking at you kids.