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Parental Indiscrection

An Attitude of Gratitude


Rachel Laing

I was 12 when my family moved to San Diego from Pittsburgh, and for years, it felt like permanently being at Disneyland. Just taking a walk and checking out the Dr. Seuss trees captivated my sisters and me for weeks. Swimming year-round, the beach, iceplant sledding, the beach, never being cooped up inside, THE BEACH! What a dream!

To this day, when I drive over the crest of a hill and see the ocean or bay, my breath catches in my throat at the beauty. We live in Point Loma, and several times a day, we drive down a hill that offers an almost unbearably stunning view of the downtown skyline, Shelter Island, and all of San Diego Bay. I can’t help but expound on its beauty to the kids. Every. Single. Time.

“Look at this!” I’ll gasp. “How lucky are we to get to see this every day?”

“Uh, Mom?” Ben will say in his you-bore-me voice, “You say that every day.”

“Can I play on your phone?” Georgia will ask.

“It never gets old…” I’ll say dreamily. “And no, you can’t play on my phone. Look out the window.”

I comfort myself with the thought that maybe, someday, they’ll go off to college somewhere with, shall we say, less accessible beauty (no offense, Fresno), and they’ll finally appreciate the amazing world in which they dwell.

But lately, I’ve been thrown into genuine despair at how hard it is to impress my kids. As a person who is predisposed to gratitude and fortunate enough to have many reasons to be grateful, I’m floored by how unappreciative my kids are.

"How lucky are we to see this view every day? And no, you can’t play on my phone. Look out the window."

We became members of a resort club so we’d have somewhere to swim, and after a crowded Fourth of July with abysmal service—during which my husband and I certainly did our fair share of griping—my kids joined in, listing the many ways the club wasn’t measuring up to their discerning expectations.

I thought about all the kids in poverty I’ve seen in my travels, kids who’ve never owned a pair of shoes, who live in a corrugated-tin roof shacks with no plumbing, and whose prized possession is a pencil they use for school—which they feel privileged to attend. And here are my kids, complaining about how long it took to get an $8 smoothie at the club.

I’m disappointed in myself, for letting this get away from me, for not instilling more appreciation in my kids. Like most parents these days, we’ve insulated our kids from anything tough, including times when money was tight.

The only solution I can think of, at this point, is service. They need to learn what it’s like to work hard on behalf of others, understand their obligation to bring good to others’ lives. This fall, they’re going to learn about serving others.

Can these kids be saved? To be continued….

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