That’s all I want

About a month ago Max and I started this little ritual with Fred: we would end each night telling each other what one kind thing we did for another person, and what we were thankful for that day. This was important, we thought, in a life where we are capable of giving Fred almost anything he wants and where it becomes so automatic to receive. And it is also important for me, as someone who has been prone to focus on the things I don’t have over the things that I do.

It’s a heartwarming way to end our frequently frenetic days, as we snuggle in the dark and exchange reflections. For examples of gratitude, I’d expected to hear from Fred lists of treats and goodies that he’d received during the day, like an ice cream sandwich he was allowed for dessert or the chance to play on the computer. But instead it is almost never that. Almost night after night he has surprised me:

I am thankful that you let me help you cook dinner tonight.

I am thankful that you let me do the laundry with you.

I am thankful that you and Daddy listened to me when I wanted to go to Subway for lunch.

I am thankful that you read to me and got me into bed.

I am thankful that a stranger held the door open for us at the restaurant.

Really, he has blown me away. Because he has made me question how well I really know my own child. “Me me me” is how I have heard him. After all, conversation sounds often like a litany of “I want”s: I want soda; I want a cookie; I want a new Wii game; I want more Lego…The seeming obsession with acquiring things is what prompted me to start this gratitude ritual in the first place, but it’s in our process of thanking that I have been able to see what my son really wants…

to be autonomous

to feel needed

to contribute

to spend time with Mom and Dad

to be visible, to be heard, to know that his voice counts

to receive kindness

Very seldom have material things even entered into his nightly thanksgiving.

How is it that I never heard this? How is it that what I always seemed to hear instead was “I want this” and “I want that”?

Perhaps it was always there but I was simply shutting it down.

Like when we say “No” every time he asks to have dinner at MacDonald’s or to go to Chuck E. Cheese.

Or when I say, “No, let me do that; you’ll take too long/you don’t know how/you’re making a mess.”

Or when I say, “I’m too tired/too busy/not feeling well” and “I don’t have time right now/maybe later/later/no.”

Maybe he was telling me all along, but I just wasn’t listening.

But I am now, Fred…I’m listening now. And I realize that you simply want all the same things that I want too.

Are your children always wanting one thing or another? What wishes of theirs have surprised you?

10 thoughts on “That’s all I want

    • Thanks Alexandra! As a mother it is so easy sometimes to react to the “whining” instead of trying to look behind the pleas. Sometimes they just want to be a part of something we’re doing or to voice an opinion. I need to work hard at keeping this in mind too.

  1. That’s such a beautiful ritual. It really warms my heart to hear that your son is thankful for such wonderful things. I think we do, sometimes, miss what are children are really saying. Sometimes, when I am too busy, too stressed, I become deaf to their true demands because it feels easier that way…or at least in the moment when I feel that I must have my way. I am learning, however, to hear better. I’m the adult, after all, so this really is my responsibility. It’s my responsibility to hear them and insert words where they have none. I am learning, like you have with Fred, that while the age gaps between my children and I is large, we still want the same things– we all, as human beings, want the same things.

    • We really do! I am the same way — too busy, too rushed to really “hear” our kids. It can be too easy to tune them out, because maybe they don’t speak the same adult language we do, but they really are expressing the same needs…

  2. This is beautiful Cecilia. I love this little ritual of yours – one I’m likely to steal – because it is so important for not just them, but us, to learn (and remember) the power of gratitude, and acknowledging our blessings seems like a great way to end our day.

    I also think it’s easier for our kids to voice their wants rather than their needs. The want comes out loud and strong, and the needs (hunger, rest, security, love) get masked or buried in a torrent of outbursts or in accepting silence so we never really know. Well, until they’re encouraged and equipped to say it themselves, like what you did for Fred.

    That’s a wonderful thing. Both for you and for him.

    • Very good insight, Justine – I was wondering why it is that it is so much easier for them to say “I want this I want that.” And, PLEASE — do “steal” this idea! It’s a great way to get close, and to level the playing field in terms of sharing. It’s amazing to know how similar we are to our children.

  3. This is just wonderful. To go beyond the topmost layer of the words – he is, after all, a child – to see what is really motivating him, in all its depth.

    What a smart exercise. Would that we could do this with adults – and as adults.

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