“Tell me if I’m wrong," the husband said to me. "And if I am, I will apologize to my wife and rethink the way I live as both husband and parent."
Tension in the room was high.
"Here’s my side of the story," the husband continued. "My wife is tired and stressed in the mornings. I know how hard it is to get the children out and any unknown sets the whole schedule off. Last week our daughter woke up feeling sick. She looked awful and definitely needed to see a doctor. I decided to take her even though it would mean getting into work late. I thought that I was doing something nice for my wife, besides being a good dad to our daughter. That night, I had to stay extra at work to make up for the time that was missed. I came home exhausted. I thought that at the very least, my wife would thank me for my help. Instead she was upset with me for thinking that I deserved a thank you.”
“A thank you?" the wife said. "Are you kidding? Isn’t this part of parenthood? Isn’t this what you are supposed to be doing? You think taking our daughter to the doctor makes you into a kind person who does good deeds?”
“And do you think it’s the same as asking me to pass the ketchup? It’s simply what I’m just supposed to be doing, nothing more?”
“Absolutely. That you even think that I need to thank you for taking our daughter to the doctor shows what a selfish person you are.”
The two turned to me, waiting to hear my reply.
The Foundation of Every Home
“Listen,” I said. “I will not tell you what I think or feel because I am only a human being, and anything I say, you can argue that you disagree. Instead, I will tell you what the Torah says, and then we can resolve this through the timeless wisdom of our Torah.
“When Moses was an infant, he was put into a basket in the Nile River. When he grew older, he returned to Egypt to bring on the ten plagues. But God did not allow Moses to hit the Nile River and bring on the first plague. Instead, it was his brother, Aaron, who was given this mission. Do you know why? Because when Moses was a baby, the river saved his life. God wanted Moses to appreciate the kindness of the river and so he could never hit the water that had preserved his life.”
I looked at both husband and wife, wanting to be sure that they were absorbing my words before we continued.
“Now let me ask you something. Does the river feel? And besides, wasn’t the river flowing anyway? What was the big deal?”
“So here is the answer to your conflict. Even though the river was supposed to flow, Moses was expected to express his gratitude. And if this is how we must treat water that has no feelings, how much more so must we show gratitude to the people in our lives!
Husbands and wives have feelings. A word of thanks can make all the difference in the world.”
A home filled with appreciation is a home filled with respect and love.
Gratitude is the spiritual foundation of every home. A home filled with appreciation is a home filled with respect and love. It is a mistake to think that just because my husband or wife is doing what he or she is supposed to be doing, I have no obligation to say thank you.
Sure, my spouse is expected to share in the daily grind. Of course, there are financial duties, child care commitments, and marriage needs that we fulfill both. But to think that I can take all this for granted goes against the very grain of Torah’s values.
The Missing Link
I asked this couple to be brutally honest when answering my next questions.
“Is your daughter insolent? Does she often speak with chutzpah to you? Does she challenge you and make you feel that whatever you do, it’s just not good enough?”
There was an uncomfortable silence in the room.
Finally, the wife responded with just one sad word.
We often wonder why today’s children seem to have such attitude. Where did this sense of entitlement come from? Why the arrogance?
When children grow up in homes where parents never express appreciation to each other, they come to absorb this feeling of entitlement. Taking each other for granted allows children to live with carefree chutzpah and attitude.
You’re supposed to be doing this, so why should I say thank you?
Transform Your Family, Transform Yourself
Grateful parents raise grateful children who live with an understanding that everything we do must be appreciated and valued. It does not matter that I am supposed to make
dinner for you, or that I am expected to drive you to school, or buy you sneakers and outfits. You still need to express your ‘thank you’. And when you do, you become transformed. Instead of one who always feels entitled and arrogant, you grow into a person who is appreciative and humble.
Grateful parents raise grateful children who live with an understanding that everything we do must be appreciated and valued.
There is a strong link between parents who express appreciation to each other and the children raised with such an ‘attitude of gratitude’. And yes, even those little deeds that we come to expect and take for granted should not pass unnoticed. When we open up our eyes to the daily random acts that we have come anticipate, we come to love those we live with so much more. We realize that we have overlooked the blessing of family and all the daily kindness that we ‘happen’ to do for each other.
What a difference this attitude can make in both our marriage and the character of our children.