One of the things I clearly remember being taught as a child is manners. I was to call adults "sir" and "ma'am", and never call them by their first name unless I was invited to do so. When I needed to get the attention of my mother who was already engaged in a conversation, I was to (politely, never screaming) say "Excuse me" and then wait until I was addressed to speak.
And I was always, always, always to say "please" and "thank you."
I do this with my own kids now. We start practicing "please" and "thank you" early on, arguably before they know what it means (or can even properly say it. Although there is something to be said for the insane cuteness of a one year old's "tank too"). I'm a firm believer that being polite and gracious will get you so much farther in life than demanding, entitled behavior.
But there's more to it. Yes, I want my children to be polite. But more than that, I want my children to be grateful. I want them to understand the sacrifice, whether big or small, that happens when someone does, says, or gives something to them. I want them to be people who acknowledge that sacrifice.
I can teach my children to say "please" and "thank you" all day long, but gratefulness? That has to be demonstrated to them. And the best and easiest place for them to witness gratefulness is in their own home.
The internet is full of articles and blog posts where the general take away is, "Why should I thank my spouse for doing (insert parenting, household chore, work, etc.)? That's their job." And I've seen far too many relationships around me fall victim to this same school of thought. We see our spouse doing our laundry or shoveling snow or making a meal every day, and come to see it as merely their "job" and forget it is also their sacrifice.
We say things like, "so-and-so always gives and never asks for so much as a thank you in return." And really, good on them for doing something without a thought as to what they will get out of it. But shame on us for allowing our hearts to be accustomed to taking without thanks or gratefulness because it was not demanded.
I am grateful down to the marrow of my bones for the man I married. He is an excellent husband and father, who loves me and our kids without reservation or hesitation. But there are many days when I forget that this is a choice (and honestly, sometimes a sacrifice) he has made, and instead see it only as his "job." Those are not my better days or my better self.
I have found though, that the mere act of acknowledging the things he does, big and small, brings about the grateful heart I should have had in the first place.
"Thank you for coming home and immediately going into Dad mode." Our kids are in love with him. Thank you, God, that they have a dad like Dan.
"Thanks for getting up early to snowplow before church." Dear God, this man never makes me shovel. Thank you, Jesus.
"Hey, thanks for letting me vent to you over the phone on your short lunch break." I really needed to be listened to and actually heard by someone over the age of 7 today.
"Thank you for working hard to provide for our family." Because my husband works multiple jobs, I get to stay home with our babies.
"Thank you for keeping your cool and loving me despite my crappy attitude today." Wow, I didn't even like me today. I could learn a thing or two here...
My hope is that my kids will hear me say "thank you" to their dad (and vice versa. Dan and I both work hard at this) for the "jobs" he does and learn by example. I hope they see their parents' marriage flourish with the help of God and grateful hearts. I hope they understand how you can soften two hearts, both another person's and your own, with one simple "thank you."
I hope they grow up to be grateful people who acknowledge.