816 Diversions

Emily Parnell — Choosy mothers choose gratitude

Updated: 2013-11-19T21:19:56Z

By EMILY PARNELL

Special to The Star

I decided to give my kids a refresher in how to receive a gift or a meal that you don’t like. They were scheduled for play dates, overnights and family get-togethers, and it seemed a good time to brush up on handling disappointing situations.

“Just say ‘Thank you, I really appreciate it,’ and move on,” I suggested.

“But if I don’t like it, I don’t appreciate it, so that’s just a lie,” they said. “You don’t want us to lie, do you?”

“You can be grateful for the gesture. Thank them for their effort,” I advised.

I’m not a fan of the white lie and fawning over something that you hate in order to put on a show for the giver. Nor do I think brutal honesty is always the best policy. A candid, “Thanks, I already have one,” can be tempered to save feelings. Striking the perfect balance of honesty and thankfulness is an art form. I may not have perfected that art, but I assure you, I’ll keep trying until I die.

They’re both maturing in fits and starts, as kids do, and soon after our conversation, I saw a little bud of maturity blossom.

It didn’t start out well. I was under the weather, and my husband was working late. I didn’t feel like cooking, but I’d ordered pizza the night before. I looked in the fridge and was relieved to see I had the ingredients for a quick and easy veggie cheese soup. Not only that, I had a box of fish nuggets, expressly chosen by my son. “They’re my favorites!” he exclaimed, tossing them into the shopping cart.

In the past, this soup has been a crowd pleaser. My kids have dubbed it “mommy’s famous” and waxed poetic about its cheesy splendor. However, it will come as no surprise if you’ve ever had kids that their taste buds can be fickle. The same recipe that delighted them two weeks ago was unwelcome that evening.

They both peered into their mugs, stirring it with their spoons. They picked apart their fish nuggets, drowned them in ketchup, leaving most of the meat on their plates.

I huddled miserably over my own mug of soup and sighed. “Guys, you usually like that soup. And I really don’t feel great. I made that for you, and nobody is eating it. You’re going to be hungry in a little while, and I’m not fixing anything else.”

They sat silently.

Finally, they took their uneaten food to the sink and rinsed their dishes. I took mine in as well, and started loading the dishwasher.

“Mom, thanks for cooking us that meal that we didn’t want,” one them said. “Yeah, we really love you and appreciate that you cooked for us. We hope you feel better.” They both hugged me. Later, they dragged their stools to the counter and made themselves peanut butter sandwiches.

I wasn’t thrilled that they suddenly wouldn’t eat a meal they normally love. If I hadn’t been so bedraggled by my cold, I might have made an issue out of it. But if I had, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see their compassion and etiquette skills in a rejection so sweet it made me feel loved.

Overland Park mom and 913 freelancer Emily Parnell writes for Diversions each week.

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