07/08/2014 11:18 am ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

Shake the Excess

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We went away for the weekend. The children, the husband, the beach, the car drive, the fantastic food and freedom from every day life. It was an un-vacation. "Vacation" conjures up a tall ice cold drink on a pool chair lost in a novel. The only noise is you breathing and sipping and turning pages. Oh, to have that silence. Oh, to have that drink.

When you have kids, vacations are redefined. They are time away from home. Which is also a beautiful thing. Just different. And not a vacation.

So we take our children to this fabulous beach resort for the weekend. They swim. They dive into the lake. They swing high on tree swings. They down donuts and soda and more macaroni and cheese than a school cafeteria. They are beyond fortunate. And so when one turns to me and starts to whine that her brother got two donuts and she only got one, this is what I want to say: "You ingrate. Why can't you sit back and see how incredibly lucky you are to be where you are and have what you have. Why are you that a**hole kid?"

It disturbs me when my children aren't grateful. I realize that by writing that time away from home with kids is an un-vacation, I am also being ungrateful. But, trust me, I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am to take any trips with my kids. I am also aware how much of an un-vacation it is.

When I was a kid, going to the Holiday Inn on our way to Orlando was enough to make my sisters and I practically pee ourselves with excitement. Eating cereal in the crappy hotel restaurant was awesome. I still remember the smell of that Holiday Inn and thinking to myself, this is what luxury smells like. Now, my kids are so used to taking "vacations" and staying in nice places that it's hard for them to pause and appreciate what they have. Same for us adults. How do we simultaneously enjoy the nice things we work for and maintain
gratefulness? Especially in this day and age when kids are so revoltingly spoiled. Basically, how do you make sure your kid isn't an a**hole?

When we got home, I heard the lyrics from a Mumford and Sons song that prompted this entry: "Know what we've seen/And him with less/Now in some ways/Shake the excess."

How do we shake the excess?

My knee-jerk reaction is to stop buying things for my kids and to only stay in trailer parks from now on. But, that's not really a viable option.

My kids are generous, charitable people with a deep sensitivity for the poor, the sick, the disabled, the needy. But they can still be spoiled a-holes at times.
We need to shake the excess. I just don't know how.