How To Say Thank You


We didn’t eat out much when I was a kid.

As child I thought that this was because we didn’t have a lot of money but as an adult I have been informed that I was fairly hyperactive, especially in new environments.

When we did visit a restaurant it was usually on a Sunday night, and it was most often a Bob’s Big Boy.  I was always warned that we wouldn’t come back if I didn’t behave properly.

This type of risk/reward scenario did help me behave appropriately, even if it was only for a Sunday night.

While I always appreciated going to eat at Bob’s Big Boy, mostly because of the Hot Fudge Cake, I could never seem to beat my brother to the punch when it came to expressing gratefulness.

See my older brother was the master of the “Thank You”.

After we had eaten, paid, bathroomed, and pretended to play the piano on the cigarette machine in the lobby we would wander across the parking lot to our car poring over our complimentary (with purchase) Big Boy comic book.

As we piled in for the drive home, my brother would shame us all, even my mother, by dropping a perfectly timed “Thanks Dad” into the first moment of communal silence.

As a kid this puts you into the awkward place of pitifully hobo-jumping onto the caboose of someone else’s thank you train, or maintaining your silence and looking like a sullen ingrate.

It’s a lose/lose proposition, especially if you are the middle child.

See my baby sister could tag a “Thank You” onto the end of my brother’s gratefulness and it would seem cute… after all, she’s too little to know to say “Thank You” on her own.

On the other hand, the hyperactive middle child is not only old enough to be an unprompted thanker but they’re also typically the one who’s constant chatter immediately precedes the moment of silence that the oldest child’s “thank you” is dropped into.

After years of frustration, I began studying my brother’s technique to determine just how he came to achieve such high levels of success.

Now, on a Thanksgiving Day 30 years later,  I’m proud to not only tell you how he did it, but in doing so to help you become admired for demonstrating the kind of gratefulness that emanates from a 10-year-old who’s just devoured a plate of  *Pappy Parker’s Fried Chicken Dinner.

1.) Never rush a “Thank You”.
After being beaten to the punch with a “Thank You”, you swear to yourself that you won’t let it happen again.  This type of vow unfortunately leads to a premature thanking situation the next time your dad takes you out for a meal.

In that moment when you see that your car is not taking the most direct route from the church to your home, and you ‘casually ask’, “Where are we going?” and your dad says, “You’re mom’s tired, we’re going to Bob’s”, you might think that saying your “Thank You” right then and there accomplishes something.

It doesn’t really.

See as much as your dad might appreciate the early “Thank You”, he hasn’t really even done anything  to be thanked for yet, plus he’s hungry and nothing you do at this point is really going to impress him… unless of course you can produce your own Big Boy Burger from under the seat.  Beyond this, another family member will invariably thank him as you get back into the car, erasing the effect of your early “Thank You” and leaving you right back where you started.

Always save your “thank you” for completion of the project that you are offering thanks for… especially if you haven’t yet discovered if you’re going inside for dinner or just jello at the counter.

2.) Create, don’t wait for, the right moment.
After failing with my initial misfire, I watched my brother to determine exactly how he pulled off his stellar performances.  If patience was what got my brother his audience, initiative is what got our attention.  By not thanking my dad in transit he guaranteed himself an audience, but how did he manage to get the audience’s undivided attention?

During the rush to get out of the cold and into the car, everybody is excitedly chattering away, engaged in seat selection.  Nobody is going to get heard thanking anybody over the din.  My brother would wait patiently outside the car until everybody was settled, then he would slide in next to my sister, slam the door, and in that split second of silence as my mom looked back to see what just happened but before my dad could say something about slamming the door, my brother would give his line, “Thanks for taking us out to dinner dad.”

3.) If you miss the moment, make a new one.
After observing and adopting my brother’s technique as my own I believed that I had finally beaten him at his own game; This was when I learned that the master still had something left to teach me.  As we waited in our bunk beds for my parents to see us off to the land of Nod, my brother waited for Dad to lean over for the tuck in.  That’s when he said, “Thanks again for a great night.”  I felt like asking my dad if he remembered that I had thanked him first, back in the car, but I’m pretty sure I knew how that would end.

Thinking back on it, even though I may have said “Thank You” first, I don’t think that I ever really exceeded my brother in gratefulness; His natural gratefulness drew a more studied thankfulness out of me than I would have found on my own.

I wish I had been a more grateful kid, I just don’t think I knew how.

I eventually learned how to be more grateful from watching my older brother’s example.  His gratefulness was spurring me on through competitiveness, but it eventually focused me on thanking my dad for his generosity.

That eventually bled through into more days than just Sunday.

Thanks Dana.


*Pappy Parker’s Fried Chicken Dinner was my brother Dana’s favorite Menu Item.


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