The New Year has just begun and I am so grateful for the year gone by. 2015 has been wonderful and I have much to thank for (more on that in the next post). The same holds true for my little chefling. She was surrounded by loved ones (I hope she will continue to value them as time goes by), learnt new skills, read numerous books, gave love and got much more than her heart could possibly hold and so much more.
There is something that I like to do with her each December; be grateful for the year gone by. Often we fail to appreciate the people who make our lives beautiful. Sitting down with Sara and making our little list helps her (and me!) introspect on the year gone by and committing those people to memory.
All those times when her grandmother read the same story a million times made her summer happier, that one time when her friend saved that last cookie for Sara made her evening sweeter, each morning when she is leaving for school and her “lift uncle” smiles & says hi to her makes her day better . Amidst the baubles & the glitter, the gorgeous spreads on our dinner tables & the gifts we unwrap, just a little thank you note to the people who matter helps us celebrate the year gone by and the people in our lives.
So a few weeks back we decided to make a little something for the two people who make sure she goes to and comes back from school safe and happy, all year round. Her bus uncle and bus aunty (School bus driver & bus Nanny).
A thank you card, an Indian trail mix to munch on in between their tiring long shifts & thank you cookies to make them feel extra special.
Get both the recipes in the New Year Issue of Foodemag DXB.
Gratitude is such a tricky concept to learn. With too much of everything around us it is so easy to take everything for granted. So how can we challenge ourselves and our children to find moments, people and actions to be thankful for. Here are a few things that Sara and I have been doing and will continue to practise this year as well:
- I am grateful for: Before she leaves for school each morning, Sara has been saying a thank you prayer of sorts (ever since she started playschool). There aren’t any fixed lines. She just tells us what she is grateful for. Most days she sings it (yes! you read it right). It sounds like rock one day and opera the next. It is really funny. She is grateful for all kinds of things; the roast chicken I made for her dinner, that magic ballerina book she got at the library, for the twigs she collected from the park, for rain in Dubai and more. But we always begin this little exercise by being grateful for “a beautiful new day”. If we don’t feel grateful with what we already have, what makes us think we will be happy with more?
- Handmade cards and handmade gifts over store bought stuff: Ever since she started to “write and draw” we have been making cards for her teachers, family and friends. It has become a sweet tradition of sorts; one that we look forward to each Diwali, Christmas, Teacher’s Day and on Birthdays. Sometimes we make “just like that” cards because it makes us super happy. I am hoping to teach her the value of handmade love with these.
- Celebrating each year: Every year on her birthday we have this little quiz. How was it being four? How was it being five? What were the most precious memories you made? Why was being six so much fun is something that I am looking forward to ask her in a few days from now. I record these answers and later write them down against each of her birthday pictures. Makes for a great keepsake too! There is a lovely poem by A.A. Milne that is her favourite. The title is “Now we are six” where the child wants to be six forever and ever. We will need a suitable replacement for that soon:)
- Choose some chores at home and do them each day: She waters the plants (helps her to understand that it takes a lot of work to keep the plants blooming and her tiny balcony garden pretty), sets the dinner table (putting together a meal on the table is a labour of love) and tidies her room before she sleeps (being responsible and putting things back so you know where they are when you need them the next day and more importantly she realizes that whenever she is at school the house doesn’t miraculously gets clean on its own :))
- Encouraging generosity and random acts of kindness: Donating toys and clothes (both old and new), putting together food gifts for loved ones and the less fortunate help us both value what we have even more. A random act of kindness for someone who is not expecting anything. The advent calendar we make together helps us with this. We are lucky that her school also encourages their students to practise the same throughout the year. Two that stand out in my memory are when the school asked the younger kids to put together food stalls (simple stuff like boiled corn, sandwich, cut fruit, etc) and the elder ones to buy so the proceeds can go for a good cause and the time when they all made candles, cards, table mats for Christmas and the money collected was sent to a charitable organization in India.
- Volunteering: This is on my list for the year. I volunteer for Food Revolution and I always try and take my little one with me. It is both fun and a lot of learning for her, working tirelessly, seeing joy on the other children’s faces and also learning to appreciate how everyone supports her mum. This year I am going to be supporting a cause very close to my heart (working on it and will share here soon); one that I hope will make us value what we have even more and do our little bit for many others.
- Family Ritual: This is something that I used to do before Sara was born with DH. Each New Year Eve, we would sit and scribble/draw memories from each month on a paper mat. I loved doing it because now when I look back at all the mats, I feel so blessed at the memories we had the chance to make that year. I have no clue why we stopped doing it, but this is something I corrected this year. Now the three of us have our very own 2015 family mat.
- Helping her find what really matters to her: Tiaras, Clip-on dolls, board games, pretty ballerinas; all matter to her and they should to a six year old. But what also matters to her (she may or may not know all right now) is playing in the park with her friends, collecting all the dry leaves and flowers she can possibly find, listening to Mozart with her dad, playing the violin, filling up all the drawing files in the house with bright colours, reading non-stop and even forgetting to blink her eyes, her eyes shining brightly when grandparents arrive and so much more.
- Saying please and thank you and being polite: No explanation needed. This is a must else “I can’t hear her or see her”. The same rules holds for me.
- Being patient: Like everything else it takes a lot of time and a tremendous amount of patience for both her and me to remember to be grateful always. There are times when the room is a mess and she thinks if she turns a blind eye, I will tidy it up for her (really clever!) or she asks me to donate a toy only so she can get a new one (yes, that too! telling you this girl is a handful), will forget to thank a friend who held the lift door for her or dismiss us completely when we ask her to stop watching tv/finish what is on her plate/put her things in the place they belong/ open her school books and pretty much everything else.
There is plenty that we can do ourselves and with our little ones to develop and encourage a grateful heart. Like they say, life is a series of tiny little miracles. Notice them and appreciate them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you are practicing being grateful with your child?
Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if use those without my permission.Just ask!