I knew there was a fee to park at the venue where I was taking my two young daughters to the Disney Princesses on Ice show. But I forgot.
Not until I was driving in to the large lot did it dawn on me that I had no cash. And they don’t accept credit cards for parking. I could not enter. Instead I was turned away and drove back onto the busy street. My daughters began to panic.
“Mommy! Isn’t that where the Princesses are going to ice skate?”
“Why did you turn around, Mommy?”
I pulled into a retail parking lot and searched the van’s cup holders for loose change. Not enough. I scavenged through my purse. I came up short. I did not have my ATM card on me, and by the time I drove home to get enough cash to park, we would miss most of the show for which my girls had been counting down the days.
I let out a deep sigh of frustration.
And then it hit me. I had friends who were also attending this show. Maybe they could meet me in this lot and let me borrow some cash. I called. They were already in their seats at the show, but in an act of complete kindness, my friend’s husband ran cash out to me near the front doors.
We made it! We settled into our seats just as the show was starting. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing performance. My girls, ages 6 and 4, had huge smiles and twinkling eyes as they watched the princesses twirl and jump. I had a huge smile just watching my girls.
It had taken me part of the first act to stop sweating and to settle in, but I had done so. I tried to take in each magical moment of making this memory with my daughters.
When the show ended, we walked down the long, concrete corridor winding our way out of the massive building. Hundreds of other people flowed along with us. Every ten feet or so, vendors were selling Disney merchandise. Princess dolls, toy swords, glowing sticks, and more. My girls begged for something. I hesitated, but gave in to the pressure as I again reasoned it was such a special evening.
The snow cones came in plastic souvenir princess cups. I forget the exact price, but it was somewhere near $400.00. Okay, maybe not quite that much, but it was probably close. I bought two. I figured my girls’ delight would last for weeks to come.
But I was wrong. As we continued to walk down the long hallway we passed more vendors.
“I really wanted a doll, Mommy!”
“Why won’t you buy me a Princess dolly?”the little one whined.
The complaints continued. Didn’t they know I had already spent a lot of money just on the tickets for this show, let alone the parking fiasco, which had left me indebted to my friends. Then, I had just bought them SNOW CONES in a PRINCESS CUP and I had about HAD ENOUGH of this giving spree to UNGRATEFUL little people.
A few more words of complaint came out of their mouths before I stopped. Dead in my tracks. I put my hands on their shoulders and walked against the flow of traffic until I squeezed the three of us into a corner and guided the girls to stand with their backs against a cold concrete wall.
“I am tired of this complaining. You have been given so much already. We are not moving until you guys are thankful!” I said in a huff.
I further stated my case. “I just spent a lot of money on tonight and instead of being thankful for it, you’re complaining and asking for more. I’ve had it! You will stand there until you are thankful. Do you hear me?”
The girls nodded as their little lips, stained purple and red from their snow cones, began to quiver. The whimpered and cried as the crowd slowly moved by us.
There they were. Two little blonde girls standing against a wall trying to feel thankful.
(PS. This was not my finest parenting moment.)
“Are you thankful yet?” My voice was firm. I demanded an answer.
They sniffed and cried and shook their heads. After a few more minutes I decided they were thankful enough and we continued on our way. I heard no more requests for princess dolls. Only sniffles.
Today as I was doing dishes, two years after that evening, I picked up the souvenir princess cup off the counter and smiled.
“Are you thankful yet?” I laughed to myself.
I’m not proud of how I handled that moment, but I am thankful for it. Today as I thought back over the memory, I realized that I was trying to instill gratitude in my children. I was aiming to make thankfulness a habit for them, an automatic response. And I was trying to get out of there without going bankrupt. But mostly, I was teaching my kids to be grateful.
And that’s a hard lesson to learn.
I know how they felt that night. Sometimes I don’t feel very thankful either. I get caught up in what I don’t have instead of noticing all the blessings in front of me. Sometimes I need someone to stand me up against a cold wall until I can get my wits about me and express the gratitude I don’t feel.
Feeling grateful isn’t necessary for being grateful.
Sometimes you say thanks though gritted teeth.
And, that’s okay.
It’s all part of the training.