A Grumbly Snow-Day Solution

So yesterday I wrote a response to some of the complaining and grumbling I had seen around facebook due to a second cancelled day of school on the heels of Christmas break. It gathered a few comments and reactions (oddly, none were directly on the blog, but all on my facebook link to it).

Admittedly, my children had been getting at each others' throats for a few days.  My wife connected it to when they found the old Super Nintendo, lugged it upstairs from its box in the basement, connected it to the television, and started playing. One controller was broken, so they could only play one player at a time. The non-playing brother would sit close by and offer "helpful" suggestions during play. Which inevitably led to sore feelings and inappropriate comments toward one another.

I pointed out that it didn't matter if they were playing video games or not. They were getting to the point of verbal combat with one another over the simplest thing, electronic or not.

And I understand that this is why some parents hate an unexpected day off from school. Especially on the heels of sixteen previous days. Especially when we've been in the midst of this "polar vortex" with -50 degree F windchill.

Thankfully (that word is about to come into play) I remembered all the writing I've done and all the conversations from friends about the importance of gratitude in one's life. So yesterday, on our drive to the YMCA for a little swimming (and to get out of the house) after a morning that wasn't completely pleasant around the house at times I made up a little game. It went like this:

"Okay, boys, we're going to play a little game (groans emerge from the back seat). Each of us is going to think up something that completes the sentence "I'm grateful for...or I'm thankful for..." (more groans). I'll start and then I'll count to five and then Anders has to share something before I finish counting. After he shares then it's on to Nils who has to share something before I count to five. Then it's back to me and we keep going. But if anyone doesn't think up something before I count to five, they're out. I'll give you a few seconds to think up at least two things your thankful for before I start."

By this time the moans had diminished and they were beginning to take it seriously. So I started. And the gratitude kept going around.

Some were serious: I'm grateful for a warm house; I'm thankful that the gas tank is full so I don't have to pump gas in this cold; I'm thankful for our Y membership right now; I'm grateful for the food we have to eat.

Some were more frivolous: I'm thankful for root beer; I'm grateful for candy; I'm thankful for Legos; I'm grateful for that I won Milles Bornes (the card game).

I had to mail a package at the post office on the way, so I had to pause the game then. We had already done nearly a dozen shares each. Now part of our bedtime routine is sharing something we're thankful for each day and then praying. Some days they have trouble coming up with something. But this format made it possible for them to keep going.

So I offer up a solution for those days of grumbling, fighting, and complaining: the gratitude game.

It can't hurt to give it a try. You might just be grateful you did.


Estelle54 said...

Great conversation starter Dave! And more importantly causes much self-reflection (not something many of us like 'cause for me anyway, I often don't like where that leads---to my very human foibles:) Some practicality comes to mind----how's the sleep factor play into all of this? Often we families enjoy losing structure over the holidays (or not) which includes messing up adequate amounts of sleep. One memory I had was waaaayyy back in the day, while a single mom, letting those 2 Johnson boys go to bed when they wanted & getting up when they wanted at the outset of summer vacation (probably they were around 7 & 8?). WHAT A DISASTER!! So much fighting & arguing was going on! Well, once a reasonable "summer" bedtime was set (let's say 10 p.m.--in bed reading if you don't want to sleep) seemed to REALLY help the dispositions. Not the magic bullet here, however, seems to be a variable that can help everyone have a better frame of mind to be open to that thankful spirit you've so eloquently reminded us is also important!

Rev. Dave said...

Thanks for the thoughts. Yes, I believe structure (including sleep--maybe especially sleep) comes into play with this. I commented on my facebook post regarding the previous blog thread that maybe we need to have an emergency structure plan for those snow days and such. Maybe that's what parents need as well. But I believe a lot of it is simply our attitude and outlook, and that gratitude changes attitude.