Funny story. Not really, but perhaps you will understand the situation a little better after this anecdote from my pretty ordinary existence.
We were on the way home from a fun, yet long, trip to the South to visit my parents and some friends. We were on our second day of driving home and my husband and I were searching the blue FOOD signs preceding each exit, looking for something delicious with options for me too.
We settled on it: Fuddruckers. The kids had never been, and we hadn’t experienced Fuddruckers in years. As in, not since we were married. We took the offramp and pulled into the parking lot, telling the kids how much they would enjoy this place.
It was exactly how I remembered it. From the ordering counter, to the bakery, to the decor, this was a delight from childhood. We explained the food options while awe escaped the lips of my younger children.
“Awww. I wish I could get a shake.” I shook it off, pretending not hear. My oldest repeated it once more, “I wish I could get a shake,” and that, friends, is when I lost my mind.
I snapped my head and shot her my death glare and hissed the words, “Why can’t you just be grateful?!” Her eyes opened in her trademark Mom-is-losing-it look, but that only made the situation worse. “We stop at this cool place with awesome food and you can’t even say thank you? You just complain about what you can’t have?!” I had to look away and ignore her before I said something really nasty.
Sure, I can blame the 15 hours of driving we had done in the last 24 hours, and I’m sure that had something to do with my overreaction, but here is what I heard in my head, “This isn’t good enough. You aren’t good enough.”
In her book, Screens and Teens*, Dr. Kathy Koch points to today’s culture, specifically the technology we access, as a prime suspect in our kids’ demand for options and their discontent. And while I do agree that the myriad of options we have does contribute to our discontent (after all, if I choose this then I am missing out on all of that), I believe it is a problem that stems from the very first sin.
In a garden bursting with delicious food, Eve’s gaze is drawn to the one tree she is forbidden.
I regained my control in Fuddruckers. Lilly said thank you with all the sincerity she could muster. Then last week she did it again. We stopped to buy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film she was begging to see and one I knew I would watch more than once. But when we walked in the store all she could see were the movies we weren’t buying. Why couldn’t I buy Fantastic Beasts and Annie? (Keep in mind she wasn’t offering any of her own cash.)
But before I completely throw her under the bus, I have to realize that I perpetrate this kind of ungratefulness on a daily basis, often. I might not speak it aloud, but my brain trots through the steps of the If I had this, then I would be happy dance.
And while Lilly’s mind might have been grateful for the meal, for the movie, that is not what her words conveyed. Her words conveyed the message that I was holding out on her and didn’t want what she thought was best. Ouch.
I’m totally sorry, God. That is me. I have blessing upon blessing and my first words aren’t gratitude. They are complaints.
So, I am working on this- for my sake and my family’s health. Dr. Kathy Koch then points to thankfulness as a serious weapon against the struggles teens face today. If my kids see me constantly commenting on our lack of _______, or someone else’s lack of consideration, they will fall into the trap of believing their joy rests in the power of things outside them, things often outside their control. They will search for happiness outside of God.
Thankfulness works the other way. It sees everything as gift, good or bad. It remembers a God who isn’t holding out on us, but pouring His blessings into our lives with every breath we breathe.
It makes us happier and it is commanded by God for a reason. God is good. Remember Him. Forget not all His benefits.
Thankfulness takes practice. It is against our sinful nature. Thankfulness is rebellion. It is war, and it is holy. With each thankful moment we remember God and His nature. We acknowledge His power, supremacy, and mercy. We submit to the only One who does right every single time. What a blessing to know Him personally.
And just in case we have a hard time getting started with thankfulness, He gives us plenty of reasons to be thankful in His Word. Looking for a reason to be thankful? Check out Psalm 103.
*Quick Book Recommendation: Screens and Teens by Dr Kathy Koch is a great read. I don’t have a teen yet, but I picked up the book because screens totally influence our children’s lives already. I would recommend it as soon as your kids can work devices by themselves- especially if they have their own. The book is physically small so it is a pretty quick read, though I tend to read in chunks and mull it over in my mind. She has good data based on her years in the classroom and in counseling. She praises teens for their strengths, which I appreciate, but also points out possible pitfalls. Likewise, she acknowledges that we live in an amazing time technologically- there are benefits to technology- but she also warns against overuse. She gives you warning signs to look for and plans of action to navigate this world with your kids. It is overall a great book and I highly recommend it.