A Tradition without Tryptophan

pb210006November is always an interesting time for a family of vegetarians.

While my three children have never lifted turkey to their lips, they’ve come home from school with a multitude of smiling birds cut out in the shapes of their hands, illustrated plates labeled peas, potatoes, and turkey, and all manner of pilgrims and Indians sitting before bulbous, crayoned drumsticks.

My children have also studied the confusingly whimsical psychology of turkeys facing certain death, a standard subject in contemporary childhood cinema and song. In second grade, my oldest daughter, Lydia, participated in several morbid numbers at a school performance, including “Five Fat Turkeys”:

Five fat turkeys short and plump.
The first one hid way high upon a stump.
The second one said, “We should run, run, run.”
The third one said, “or we’ll be done.”
The fourth one said, “I don’t want to be dinner.”
The fifth one said, “I wish I were thinner!”

Her performance was not convincing.

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Against Gratitude

The other day a Facebook friend linked to a blog post on fifteen ways to raise happier, more grateful children. Just that morning I’d been complaining about how ungrateful our kids are for all the comforts they have and all the sacrifices we make for them—all the writing and living my husband and I don’t do so they can have nutritious food and a good education and lots of playtime in the open air. And what thanks do we get?

Though I know better, I clicked on the link. The blogger approached the whiny, sullen child as a spiritual problem that could be remedied with a combination of crafts and mindfulness exercises. Her advice included passing around a pad of tulip-shaped sticky notes at dinner so your kids can write down what they’re grateful for and then sticking the notes to the window to make a gratitude garden.

My first thought was, if I gave my kids Post-its with instructions to write down what they were grateful for they’d write “butts” on every single page and I’d end up yelling. Then I felt guilty that I haven’t raised kids who would be able to engage in such a wholesome activity without referencing body parts or excrement (which, I assure you, makes them deliriously happy).

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