Being a single mom is a worrisome job all the time but my anxiety is at an all-time high when Christmas rolls around. When you’re struggling to make ends meet year round, Christmas can take you to a whole new level of crazy. This year I am on edge because I feel like I have been constantly trying to shield my daughter Malia from the truths and pain that came with my break up with her father. Though I have been mastering that #singlemomhustle pretty much since my daughter was born, trying to explain why daddy doesn’t come around anymore has been difficult. It has led me to teach Malia about the healing power of gratitude.
Of course, Malia will get gifts from me and the rest of her family but I am also setting out to make December a month of GRATITUDE. I want to teach her that the holidays and life, in general, isn’t all about gifts and receiving. I want her to grow up understanding the concept of gratitude and learning how to express it often. So how do we teach our naturally self-centered children how to be grateful when every commercial they see is telling them to want more?
We all know that our children learn more from what we do than what we tell them they should do. I have always been intentional about saying “please” and “thank you.” Thankfully, it’s a concept that Malia picked up on. I get so many compliments on how polite she is. Even though I am fully confident that my little girl isn’t a little jerk, I make sure to remind her if she ever forgets to thank someone or say please when she’s asking for something. I also continue to practice the art of gratitude in my own life. I thank Malia every time she does what I’ve asked. I tell her how happy she made me by completing whatever the task is. She has learned that making others feel good makes her happy too.
Malia is surrounded by people who absolutely adore her. Her grandparents take any and every opportunity to buy something new for her. It got to the point where my dad was taking her to the toy store every single time he saw her. She grew to expect toy store visits every time Paw Paw came over and even displayed disappointment any time they didn’t go. I had to ask my dad to ditch this tradition because his visits should be more about the time he wants to spend with her than the toys he can buy. Besides, how quickly would that expensive toy find itself at the bottom of her toy box? She didn’t have the time to learn to be grateful for what she had because she was constantly getting something new and forgetting the old.
I try my best to take time out of every day to mentally go over all of the things I am grateful for. Exercising gratitude makes me happier because I have less time to think about things I still want or don’t have. I have been using this idea with Malia. Whenever she misses her dad, or asks me why “Why don’t we have a daddy?”, I turn that moment into a “list of grateful.” I tell her that I miss her dad at times too and to make that pain go away, I start listing off the people that are here consistently for me. Then together, we do the same for her. We start to list off every person who shows up for her on a regular basis. We talk about how much she is loved by each person. Pretty soon, she is back to her happy self and we can move on. This kind of exercise helps children understand that for every thing they feel they are missing in their life, there are so many more they do have and that they should be grateful for.
Malia knows that Santa is coming to give her all the gifts and she takes every opportunity to shout it from the rooftop. I make sure to bring her back down to floor level by reminding her that the holiday is about giving too! We talk about what gifts she would like to give her grandparents and her uncles. She gets so excited making her own list. She pulls out her crayons and uses whatever she can write on. She even wrote one of her lists on my nightstand! So I went out and got her some fun, colored paper to write on. I tell her how happy she would make each of the people she is giving gifts to. Side note to my family: I may not actually be able to afford those gifts but…it’s the thought that counts, right? Nothing says love like a hand drawing from a 3 year old.
It’s easy to lose ourselves in the excitement of gift giving and seeing those little faces light up when they see what you, I mean, Santa brought for them. But try to focus more on the excitement of spending time with all of your family in one place. So instead of spending all of our time talking about gifts, I also talk about how excited I am to see all of my aunts and uncles. I tell Malia how much fun we are going to have with everyone. Time and memories are so much more precious than the gifts we can buy.
We all want to make our children’s dreams come true this Christmas, especially us single mamas. We already feel shame for not being able to buy all the things our babies want year round, but it’s so important to make sure that those dreams include family, gratitude, love, and kindness. Those concepts can help your children find happiness without spending a dime. In the world we see today, we could use a little more of those things and a little less of what’s hot right now in stores.
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