Ungratefulness. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.
Ironically, it’s also one of my deepest personal struggles.
So I guess you could say that I annoy myself frequently. And you would be correct.
Last Tuesday, after a rip-roaring holiday weekend packed with parties, fireworks, eating out, family get-togethers, and almost non-stop summer fun, I packed the kids up to head to the library on our first day back to the regular routine. On the way, we stopped at the local pool to sign them both up for another session of swim lessons. The line was long, the day was hot, and the sight of families traipsing through the locker rooms into the pool area was enough to start the inevitable whining.
“Why can’t we go swimming, Mommy?”
My responses started off breezy and understanding, explaining that we weren’t going to swim at the big pool today because we had other plans. After the second or third complaint, I started to get more serious, reminding both children of all the activities they’d been able to enjoy the past several days, noting that we had some other big plans later in the week, and offering to set up the little backyard pool later that afternoon if swimming was still on their minds. When the subject was still coming up as we buckled car seats to move on, I was more than a little peeved. My tone switching to the no-nonsense variety, I looked the kids directly in the eyes and firmly reiterated that we would not be playing at the pool, and that I would like them both to be thankful for the other fun activities of the week. And then Maya offered one last challenge.
“But we’re not getting to do what we want to do right now.”
Well. The look on my face must have registered something ominous, because she somehow retreated back into the depths of her seat with an expression that reflected both curiosity and anxiety over what would happen next.
Frustration boiling over. I climbed into the driver’s seat, jaw set and doors slamming, before launching into a monologue that included the $80 I’d just plunked down for another two weeks of lessons at the pool, invoked the name and plight of our sponsored child in El Salvador, and I’m fairly certain contained some snippy-toned scripture references (who can really be sure in those mama’s-losing-it moments). It was not my best parental showing. By the time we arrived at the library, things had blown over and settled, with apologies offered from all sides. And as I reached out for two small hands to cross the parking lot I reflected on it all. What was that mess which had just exploded out of my mouth – and thus, my heart? It seemed far deeper than just the day-to-day frustrations of child-rearing. This thing had hit a major nerve. It didn’t take me long to admit that the nerve had a name.
Fear. That my children were growing to be self-centered and entitled. That they were…well…becoming just like me.
How many times each day do I look past His every good and perfect gift, reducing them to commonplace things I expect and deserve? I grumble and complain, seeking my own comforts and considering others hardly at all – let alone better than myself. I wrestle daily with entitlement, ingratitude, and impatience.
I want more for these kids; desperately desire that they reflect Him, and know that it starts right here.
* * *
On Monday we sit at the pool waiting for the start of class. Maya bounces on her chair beside me and Noah runs excited circles around us both. The mother at the next table watches and calls over.
“They look exactly like you!”
I smile and nod my agreement, turning my gaze upward to study the clouds and take in the truth.