I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a home where manners were very big. Although my parents didn’t remain together (mom and dad separated when I was 1 1/2 years old and divorced a few years later) and I lived primarily with my mother, both households placed a great deal of emphasis on politeness, graciousness, and thankfulness. I can’t begin to tell you just how many times in my youth I said “Excuse me, and thank you. May I please be excused from the table?”
Being thankful (and expressing that thankfulness aloud) for things done on our behalf was paramount in my upbringing. And while it may have been done out of obligation then, it’s now a trait I’m immensely grateful for as an adult, and again now as a parent. I want Huxley to be the sort of child, teen, and adult that people want to be around. I want him to be grateful for kind deeds done to him and I want him to bestow kindness onto others. In order for him to act in such a manner, it’s important that his father and I cultivate that component of his character.
He’s still just a wee guy, but I’ve begun implementing a step in the direction towards his becoming a conscientious, thoughtful, and empathic person as he ages. We do it each night and I’ve decided to call it our “Gratitudes.” As we get into bed (he still begins each night sleeping on my chest; over the past few weeks, though, he’s started wiggling mid-night, so he gets shifted beside me, facing upright, where he remains contentedly throughout the remainder of our sleep), we snuggle in, I pull the covers up over us, he cuddles his tiny head sideways under my chin, I turn on some soothing ambient music, and I begin itemizing aloud what I’m thankful for from that day. Some things are specific to me (“hot coffee”), some are related to Hubs (“Papa shoveling snow from the driveway”, “Papa bringing firewood up to the house”), and some are all about him (“the Baby Gap gift card from Great-Aunt Gail”).
I continue on, expressing thanks for things both mundane (“scrambled eggs for breakfast”) and profound (“a fifth book deal”), until either I nod off, or I feel content and full of gratitude and Peanut Sauce has drifted off to sleep. It sets me up for an evening full of joy and thankfulness and appreciation for things both tiny and colossal in my life. I plan to keep up our “Gratitudes” for as long as Huxley enjoys them. Hopefully, in so doing I’ll instill in him the same sort of profound sense of blessedness that I feel everyday, and now, every night.