“Life is about finding our joy.”
An acupuncturist said this to me over ten years ago and I actually laughed. Maybe it was my needle anxiety, but I really did laugh. I thought she was nutty. Life about finding joy? No, no, no. Life (for me), was about work. Responsibility. Working hard. Wasn’t that the deal for everyone?
I was doing a brief stint as a stay-at-home mom, eagerly looking to teach after we relocated. I was constantly working. I was the one a bit nutty. Some would stay I still am, but my perceptive has taken a gigantic shift.
Seeking joy is not inherently in me. It takes effort. It’s penciled in lightly on every to-do list. Without that reminder, I’d forget. Luckily, I spend every day of my life with at least two fantastic kids, often several dozen kids who remind me – and sucks me right into their joy. It’s a constant reminder that joy is all around us if we simply open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to it.
Life is changeable. It might be short. It’s fluid and can be interrupted at any point. Happiness is a gift and a choice. That’s the compelling reasons to find the joy in each day. Tomorrow might not bring the same opportunities for joy and laughter, so grab it while you can!
Fortunately, most children are blissfully unaware of how vulnerable we all are. Most live for the moment and when given the opportunity, they will thrive in the moment – taking in as much as they can, asking questions, making connections, laughing, moving and living richly.
As I work with young children, the eagerness and joy to take on the world is a part of every breath they take and it’s contagious. Whether it’s a bowl full of rocks they explore while wondering aloud or stretching those shoulder muscles while painting at an easel ( he very same muscles that will later allow them to grasp and control writing tool), the children explore with joy and enthusiasm. Seeing the world through their eyes is invigorating, particularly when you are able to do so with the purpose of letting them grow in ways that don’t simply reflect your own goals or bias or agenda.
Often adults feel they are the holder of knowledge and experience and that our job is to pour said knowledge into the heads and bodies of children. However, when you take on the mindset that adults role is to guide, mentor, and wonder alongside children, it’s easier to share the joy and often, to learn something new about the child, yourself and/or the world.
On the other side of the coin, when children experience a pattern of distractions, their perception of the world shifts. It’s hard to find a parent who doesn’t feel busy, stressed or torn. We all are, but it’s essential we make time to put aside the to-do lists, the phone, computer, laundry or whatever, to be fully present with our kids. They may not understand our reasons for multitasking, but they sense they are not valued or are at least, unimportant in the very moment they are living in. Children learn that it’s okay not to make eye contact, to mumble something that resembles a response but that doesn’t value them the speaker, that relationships don’t always matter. I hear kids report and react in this manner far too often, either by self-deprecating remarks (“it doesn’t matter, my mom won’t even read it…”) or painfully honest opinions such as “well, actually they wouldn’t care if I got lost in a store because their life would be easier…” Just maybe these little guys have lost some of that joy because they perceive a pattern of joy-less (or less joyful) life with the adults around them.
Happiness and joy are about being present. About being here, not there. (Remember Jon Kabot Zin’s book – Wherever You Go, There You Are?)
Joy and presence require us to clarify our priorities and stick to them. It means being authentic to ourselves an honoring our responsibilities, especially those to our children. It’s hard. It takes constant vigilance and commitment, but it’s possible.
When things are going well celebrate. Patty Digh suggests keeping candles to celebrate the little things. (My own kids tease me incessantly about this, but it’s one more way to get a good laugh!). When things don’t go well, you’ve got to have a robust emotional bank account that builds resiliency. And when things are somewhere in the middle, you can choose to look at the glass have empty or half full. If you do the latter, you’re bound to find some joy as well! We want them to be happy and we want you to be happy, too!
Need a little help finding a smidge of happiness, click here.