Ben is a good kid. He's the kind of kid people comment on how lovely he is. People use adjectives like "sweet", "delightful", "kind", "thoughtful"... but not too often "cheerful". By the time he's tired at night, he's often a pack of misery. And I have to admit, I take it personally. It shits me that he behaves as though his life is a catastrophe when it is, in fact, pretty bloody good.
When I get over myself, I also realise that it is not a good thing that my son is growing up with a "glass half empty" sort of outlook. You know, as in, not good for him. I also realise that me getting grumpy with him over his lack of gratitude is unlikely to help.
This is where Oprah comes in. Watching Oprah back in the days when I lounged around at home with a nanny, I first came across the concept of a gratitude diary. I know she didn't exactly invent the idea, but it was the first time I'd heard it. So anyway, I decided that was a more positive approach, and I've started asking Ben at bed time to tell me one fun thing he did today, and one thing he is grateful for. To begin with it was like pulling teeth. I had to prompt with things that might have been fun and things he might be grateful for. Even then he only grudgingly admitted that he might actually have enjoyed that Chinese lunch he specifically asked for.
Tonight I started to walk out of the room and he said "Mummy - remember????". So I asked, and I got an animated response with giggles and elaboration and, well, happiness. All this despite my having picked him up early from after care, which usually results in a whole night pout. This may become a family ritual.