Parenting Guru: From Gimme to Gave Me

I hate to sound like a total Scrooge, but this time of year makes me a bit, well, edgy. While I adore the music and decorations and spirit of the season, I have a hard time coming to terms with the idea of buying my kids -- who already have so much -- even more.

So this year, we're going beyond wish lists. Though don't get me wrong, those are growing longer each day. We're also making a "wish granted" chain. Each night at dinner, I go around the table and have every family member finish the sentence, "Thank you God for..." Since we're religious, I'm using this as a lesson in faith as well, but it could just as easily say, "I am grateful for..." or "This wish came true today..." I write each individual's answer on a strip of construction paper, alternating red and green in our case, then staple them to make a chain. Since we happen to be a family of five (six if you include the wishes my daughter has asked me to add on behalf of her baby doll), we already have a lovely garland decorating our dining room. By Christmas, I'm guessing it will wrap all the way around our tree.

One of the things I've loved most about this activity is seeing what's on my kids' minds, and knowing that next year their thinking will be totally different. For instance, we started this the day after my 5-year-old son's birthday party. Of course I thought he'd talk about all the fun, friends, and cake that came with his big moment, but instead he said, "Thank you God for the candy I found on the floor." Yes, it's really that easy to make a preschooler's day.

My 7-year-old son? Well, he's a bit more serious. He's thankful for food, our family, our house, and, this week, no school.

And my 2-year-old daughter makes us laugh each day. Her answer is usually "candy" or "string cheese." Every now and then it's her lovey. And last night, her baby doll also wanted to thank God for candy. I'm blaming Halloween...I swear we don't live in a gingerbread house.

As for my husband and me, when we speak our gratitude out loud, we're able to remind our kids how being with them and loved ones is what matters most. And, while I'd love to say each day my list is too long to write down, I'll admit I've struggled at times. Since we do this at dinner time -- the hardest part of the day for me -- sometimes I'm too tired to think back to the best moments of the day. But when I do, I'm quickly reminded that I already have just what I need.

Amy is a Shine Parenting Guru and the all-too-honest mom behind the slice-of-life blog, Using Our Words. You can follow her adventures in motherhood on Facebook.