Teaching Gratitude in a Time of Consumerism

Every year as the clock strikes midnight on Halloween, like clockwork (pun intended) my newsfeed begins to fill with posts of gratitude challenges as friends and family from near and far declare to their social media world everything that is a blessing in their lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I far prefer these paper-933661declarations of gratitude to the diatribe of political proclamations and first world problems that seemingly plague my newsfeed the other eleven months of the year. And let’s be honest. The political posts this year were more hopped up than my kids after consuming two espressos, a handful of sour patch kids and let loose in a toy store with handfuls of glitter. 

I suppose I should admit now that besides Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving is this New Orleans mama’s favorite holiday. Hidden between the costuming and the haunting of Halloween and the magic of the Christmas season, is this underdog of the American holidays. Whatever the reason that so many pass it over (other than eating being one of my favorite pastimes), I just really enjoy the simplicity in this holiday’s message: give thanks.

I enjoy celebrating and seeing others – whether it be a day or a month, posted for all to see or a silent benediction in their hearts – expressing gratitude for all they have been given in their lives.

And then, before the plates are even cleared off the Thanksgiving table, we become bombarded with an endless to-do list of holiday errands and obligations. I find we shift so quickly from being grateful for another year to celebrate our blessings to a constant drone of more, more, more.

As a parent, I find instilling gratitude in my two children in this hyper-active, consumer-driven market, as difficult as redirecting their attention when they complain of boredom to pick up a crayon or a book instead of the remote. It’s quite often that they will begin speaking about a new toy or game that they’ve watched reviews of on YouTube or commercials between cartoon breaks with the familiarity of an old friend.

I understand that my parents and grandparents fought mass-production consumerism and child commercial-targeting for many years before I became a parent, but unlike my mom turning off the television to tune out the commercials, it seems I can never just “turn it off” for my girls. It’s consumerism gone wild and I’ll be the first to admit how much is scares me.

In total transparency here, I’m the first one in line to rave on the ease of buying my gifts, my cards, my decorations and plan my holiday schedule online while I sit in my living room, drinking wine, in my PJs. But as my girls grow and become more aware, I begin to fear the disconnect this has on gratitude.

pexels-photoFor my girls, all they see is the few clicks on a computer or smartphone and no less than two days later, the purchased object appears on our porch. As connected as we all are, it is difficult for them to understand that clean water, an abundance of food, clothes and a roof over their heads are blessings more than many even in this country have to claim. Instilling a sense of gratitude for the small, everyday things is a challenge I’ve encountered more of this year as my girls enter a new stage of childhood.

I’m not asking for a war on Christmas. My house looks like a winter wonderland the weekend following Thanksgiving (most in part thanks to my husband’s love for the season). Some of my favorite childhood memories and experiences we have as a family are from the traditions surrounding Christmas and New Years.  But call me Cindy Lou Who, perhaps between holiday sales and sips of eggnog, we can hold onto the gratitude we so proudly declare during the month of November throughout the entire holiday season. I’m certainly going to try.


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