gra·cious Pronunciation: \ˈgrā-shəs\ Function: adjective Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French gracieus, from Latin gratiosus enjoying favor, agreeable, from gratia Date: 14th century
a : marked by kindness and courtesy b : graceful c : marked by tact and delicacy : urbane d : characterized by charm, good taste, generosity of spirit, and the tasteful leisure of wealth and good breeding(Merriam Webster Online)
I am pretty sure it gets on the grandparent's last nerve. I am the manners police. Every action demands a "please," "thank you so much" or "excuse me." If I don't hear it, all conversation stops until I hear it. As much as I am trying to make it an action without a thought in my children, it has become an action without thought to me. I catch myself doing it to other people's children, which is as horrifying as it sounds. Believe me when I say I could not care less about your child's manners or lack thereof. It's just that I am so used to saying it that it comes out before I think.
It is clear that being gracious is a value that is important to me. I find myself frustrated with the trend of entitlement that our generation seems to be moving toward. If you think that everything is owed to you, you tend to be less likely to feel thankful for the good things you have.
The thing is, I think there is a big difference between being gracious and having gratitude. Gratitude is defined by WordNetWeb as "a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation." I cannot force my children to feel thankful or appreciative. But I do believe that by practicing the act of being gracious can be training for gratitude. If you say "thank you," odds are better that you will actually feel thankful than if you don't say anything at all.
I have noticed that the manners policing is finally kicking in with my kids. Rumor on the street is that they pull out the manners when they are elsewhere. I'm also seeing that they seem to actually mean it sometimes when they say "thank you." I think that is all that you can ask for as a parent. What do you think?
Today we celebrate a huge milestone in our house. Today Ethan turned five. He woke up this morning and he was a different person. Dare I say it, he seemed grown up.
Spend the night with the family at a hotel with a pool. There is an upside to a birthday party where only your children are attending and you don't have to make your bed in the morning. I'm a big fan of the lazy and low budget option. This sounds a little crazy but my kids have very low expectations for pools so any old pool will do. In the good years we go to hotels with water parks and in the low budget years we combine work with birthday celebrations.
How about a party at a bowling alley? Work with me here. If you go on the off times, bowling can be a huge bargain and is always lots of fun. Bowling alleys these days have lanes that have bumpers for consistent success (and delaying the life lessons that it isn't going to work out in your favor ever time, i.e. life is not full of strikes).
Pack a birthday lunch and take it to the park. This is a great option for all you warm weather birthdays. With a large playground at your disposal, there is all of the energy release for the kids and none of the running around knocking over furniture at your own house. Parks in my area have special areas that can be reserved for parties so you can even secure your own (covered) spot for your picnic.
These are just a few ideas. What are your best ideas for a five-year-old's birthday party?
I pulled out the fluffy pajamas for him to wear to the Super Bowl party last night. His face lit up and then it fell.
K: What's wrong? These are your favorite pajamas that Marmie gave you for Christmas.
E: I know, Mom. But those are for babies (pointing to the movie-themed character that had sustained him and frankly, me, for at least two years).
K: What are you talking about? You LOVE these pajamas and you love this movie.
E: I know, Mom. But my friend says that this movie is for BABIES. Like Mason.
I always wondered how this would go down. I vaguely remember an incident or two when I was really young and someone told me I was "too old" for something. That's the part I remember. I don't remember if I abandoned the toy to my baby sisters or if I continued to play.
K: So what if he thinks it's for babies? Do you like it?
E: (sighing) I do.
K: Then that's all that matters.
E: No, it's not.
K: Ethan, I like that movie. Does that make me a baby?
E: (laughing) NO, MOM!
K: Then why would you liking it make you a baby?
E: Because my friend says it's for babies.
K: Well, I guess you had better go in and tell Dad that HE is a baby because he likes that movie and he LOVES those pajamas of yours. In fact, we discussed how we wished we had such comfy pajamas in our sizes.
E: I'm not going to tell Dad that he is a baby.
K: That's probably a good idea. His feelings would be hurt.
It is at moments like this that I'm glad I am dealing with this now rather than when I was twenty-something. The twenty-something in me would want him to take a stand. Be a CHAMPION FOR THE MOVIE CHARACTER!!! Draw your sword and fall on it for the movie character! The twenty-something in me would would want him to hold onto whatever he loves for as long as he possibly can and at any cost.
The thirty-something in me now realizes that there is something to the adage "pick your battles." And by that statement, I mean myself as well as him. It is okay for him to move beyond the movie as long as he decides that is what he wants to do. It is okay to be too big for something. It is not okay for him to belittle his brother for liking something however. That's the battle I chose to fight. Hopefully I have picked the right battle.
In our family we have several people that are well known for their inability to sit still for long periods of time. Those several people include adults that have been known to build major structures while on vacation because they cannot sit still. For those of us in the family who could sit still for about five days before the thought would even cross our minds to lift a finger, this industriousness is inspiring and exhausting.
Ethan is one of the industrious members of the family. I was reminded of this today when he sighed as he looked out the window.
K: What's wrong?
E: Nothing. I just see that it snowed a LOT.
K: That's good, right?
E: It IS good. It's just that I have a LOT of work to do now.
K: You do?
E: Has anyone seen my shovel?
K: What are you going to do?
E: Mom. Mom. I have a lot of shoveling to do today. Look at all that snow that came in the middle of the night.
K: Um, okay.
E: Who has seen the shovel? Dad?
D: (coming down the stairs) I don't know. I guess it's on the other porch. Why do you need it?
E: I have to shovel the walk. And maybe the driveway. And I have to clean off the cars.
D: (looking at me) Um, okay.
He then proceeded to put three layers of clothes on by himself, found his gloves and put his hat on. Out the door he walked.
K: Did that just happen?
D: I think so. How funny is he?
I looked out the window two minutes later to see how his progress was going. He is almost five, not fifteen. I breathed a sigh of relief at he made a path through the front flower bed instead of the front walk. He saw me and threw a shovel full of snow at the window. His baby brother wandered over to the window and began heckling him. More snow slammed against the window. We laughed and ducked.
It wasn't long before he was conducting experiments to determine which sled provided the fastest ride down the hill of the driveway without hitting either of the cars. He appeared to have an elaborate scoring system. There were sleds, disks and a toboggan. Two minutes later he was shoveling a path again but it appeared to be a trail to nowhere.
His intent might have been to be the grownup in the family and get his "work done." But it was nice to see the nearly five-year-old took over. No use growing up too fast.