Lately I've been meditating on the concept of thankfulness, particularly on how it pertains to our teens and young adults. So often I hear parents, myself included, launch off into a tirade of how ungrateful their children can be. It seems to come to a head in the teen years, because as parents, we find ourselves living with these huge, able bodied people that demand so much from us, every hour of the day. We thought babyhood and the toddler years were hard. No one warned us about this. And through it all, they seem to take for granted most of the things we do for love, all the endless sacrifices we make for them. It's enough to make a person crazy, and my children have seen more than a little bit of my crazy side over this matter.
As aggravating, and disappointing, and heartbreaking as this stage may be, I submit to you (gentle reader), that this may be proof that we are doing our job well.
In my experience, there are three sorts of children. Two of these types come from hard places...children of trauma if you will. They are exactly identical in that they are raised up in trauma, neglect, abandonment, deprivation. They learn that parents and other caregivers are not willing or able to meet their basic needs, or protect them from the harshness of a cruel world.
The first child never escapes in childhood. They suffer all through their youth, and no one ever plucks them from their situation and teaches them that this is not how things were meant to be. They may sense it, and resolve to be different themselves when they are the parent raising children of their own, but they never experience it for themselves. Any gratitude they may feel for the tiny scraps they were thrown is a perverted version of true thankfulness.
The second child begins the same, but somewhere in their youth, someone intervenes. They provide stability, support, and nurture. The child experiences something different, and when they are able to receive it, they also experience gratitude. They know the contrast, and they are thankful that their life is not what it once was.
The third child is not a child of trauma. They have received attentive care all their lives. They feel nurtured and safe. Every opportunity that can be purchased by sacrifice and hard work, has been bought and paid for on their behalf. They breathe this like air, and drink it like cool water. The thought that life could be very different only skitters across their brain on rare occasions.
It makes me sad that some adults are struggling to raise their own children differently than they were raised. I know daily they dig down deep into empty places, and try to find what their babies need. They allow their children to feed off their own lives, and find themselves scraped clean of everything good and nourishing. In the end, they end up starving both their children and themselves, like a woman in a famine zone, with a skeletal baby suckling at an empty breast.
It makes me sad that some children are so very grateful for basic necessities of body and soul, because they have experienced such hunger. It may look pretty, to see a child behave thus...but I don't like to think of how this pretty picture came to be. It certainly does not gratify me as a parent.
As we teach and model the virtue of a grateful heart to our children, may we pray that they continue to be a little bit ignorant and annoying. May they breathe and drink our love and provision, so that they truly only realize how we have laid down our lives for them, when they lay down their own lives for others. May they appreciate our marriages when they sacrifice for their own spouses. May they appreciate our parenting, as they raise up their own children. May they be so well nurtured and nourished that they have deep wells from which to draw. And may they have a house full of ungrateful teens of their own some day. It will make me deeply happy, and grateful, and a tiny bit entertained.