This last week my babies turned 6 years old/young. I decided that instead of a big $$$ party, we would spend their birthday at $$$ Disneyland for their first time EVER!!!! and a hotel room that night (they love hotels). What can I say, the big day at Disneyland was a total blast and a great choice indeed.
When we dragged ourselves home the next day, Talia said something that bothered me and took me by surprise. She said that she never gets her way because she wanted to stay another day at the hotel (which was news to me) and we didn't do that and it wasn't fair at all. I mean, full on snotty rant about it. I know she was tired, overstimulated, adversely affected by the extreme gluttony, totally six, and enjoyed the whole experience so much that she only wanted the fun to continue longer. But, this time the tone was different. After an impromptu pre-birthday swim and cake "gathering" (not a party!) of a few close friends the day before, plenty of presents, then a full birthday day at Disneyland with all the trimmings, a great dinner at Buca with the entire restaurant singing to them, and a nice hotel suite, she's giving me attitude about wanting more? After I called my mom for sympathy and a pep talk there was no more super nice understanding mom left in me. I felt compelled to set that girl straight. We had a private talk about gratitude (or lack of) and hurt feelings and thinking about what we have instead of what we don't. And, I have to say, she took it to heart and was the sweet lovely girl that I know and love the rest of the day, even pointing to her new toys and saying she was grateful. Well done.
The next day my mom took the kids to the wonderful Santa Barbara Zoo as her birthday gift to them. I got to spend some much needed alone time with my husband - talk about gratitude! Anyway, I get a call on my cell from my mom around 2:30 wondering where I was and saying that she's bringing the kids home...right...now. Uh oh, not a good tone in her voice. Once they are home, I send them off to the playroom so I can get the full story. My mom is actually so upset she can barely find the words. Turns out, on the way home from what was a very special day together at the zoo, Quinn complained that she didn't buy him anything at the gift shop and that he didn't get enough things for his birthday and he wanted more. While that kind of sounds like the typical American kid, it doesn't sound like my son. And for him to say that to my mom, a woman that grew up thinking her family was poor (my depression-era grandmother was extremely frugal and a saver) and never once in her entire childhood did she ever get a real birthday party, it hit her pretty hard to the core. My children, who are extremely privileged compared to the rest of the world are the last ones that should complain about not having enough. So, for the second time in two days, I did the gratitude talk and you know what, it worked again. The funny Quinn returned and was happy and nice the rest of the day. I even heard him later playing with his new Playmobil and one of his little people said to another "You get what you get and you don't get upset". Ding ding ding!
What got me thinking is that sometimes we all need to get put in our place a little, whether we are six or grownups. We can easily lose perspective and it helps to see things through fresh (hopefully caring) honest eyes to bring us back to reality (or maybe a reality we never knew before). We get caught up in our own crap and forget about how we affect other people. We are all guilty of it, yes, including me. Just last week I wrote a post about how I suffered through a recent several week long serious bout with the blues. Then, I get an email from a good friend with the subject line "helloooooooooooooo you freak" where she went on to (lovingly) yell at me for not reaching out to her so she could be there for me because that's what friends do!!!! After re-reading her email a few times, I called her up to apologize and explain myself, and un-posted my offending post. Those somewhat harsh but truly honest words are much appreciated. I realize that it wasn't right of me to spill my guts to the world about a difficulty in my life while failing to share first with my concerned friends. I definitely crossed the blurry blogging line. I don't blame her for being upset, and I would feel the same way if the situation was reversed.
Thank goodness for people around us that have the guts to care enough to be honest when we need to hear it. When it's said out of love, it's a huge huge gift. Even if we hear it from a jerk or a stranger, it can sting that much more, but the truth can still be helpful once we get over ourselves. When I was in junior high school, my hair was cut very short, like a boy. So, totally out of the blue, this kid Daniel says to me "You know, you would look much better with longer hair". I was stunned, embarrassed, self conscious, and hurt, but you know what? I grew my hair longer and it came out curly...to my total shock (I had no idea I had curly hair!). Granted, it was only my hair, but that caused a shift in me where I started to think more about my appearance...a more grown up me. And, if I say so myself, it was a huge improvement and it gave me more confidence. I can count numerous times that I've spoken my mind to people and it changed their lives. Who knows how many times we've made small comments through the years that had a major impact on someone, like with the case of my junior high friend (I'm sure he has no idea). I'm not advocating that we all go around being brutally honest with each other because that might case a few problems to say the least, but sometimes a well deserved talkin' to can go a long long way.