Have you ever thought of “being who you are” as a way of conserving energy? Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said “The most exhausting thing in life, I have found, is being insincere.” Being real — it’s worth every drop of energy used and saved.
Happiness is good, right? Often we think we know what makes our children feel happy but sometimes our thoughts on the matter may not hit the target. Ask them! It is such as simple question, “what makes you feel happy?” but we get in the throes of day-to-day tasking and list-making that it just doesn’t come up readily. Other questions that can generate discussion of happiness are: when was the last time you had a great time (remembering a whole day is hard for younger kids) and felt really happy? Who helps you feel happy? Describe a happy activity to me. What “happy activity” do you want to do today? Happiness breeds happiness, by the way. After asking your child these questions, don’t forget to turn the interview on yourself! And start recognizing that it usually isn’t things that make us feel happy but experiences and being with the ones we love (or even just like a whole lot).
Baby book, blog or napkins. No matter your choice to record all the memories of your children’s lives (and your parenting successes!), there is an inherent desire in all of us to capture and document the memories. It is so easy for this earnest and heartfelt routine to get stressful. From the choice making of manner of documentation (book or blog) to the learning of the technology (more so with blog than book) to the staying up late just to get it all documented, this practice can get a little stress-filled. But, it is so valuable and enjoyable in small doses.
One way of implementing this practice that can weave it in to life a little easier is to pair documenting of ordinary moments with something else that is “ordinary.” For example, jot down those memories (in whatever form) on the day you take the recycling to the curb, on the day you get a certain magazine in the mail or each day right before backing out of the child care setting where your child is. The main idea is to pair the act of journaling with another act that happens regularly and predictably. Often a few notes of what has happened during the last day, week or month is enough to trigger other memories when you re-read the entries. But, this method can reduce the stress of “having to get it done.” Try it!
In a classic and endearing children’s book, The Please and Thank You Book by Barbara Shook Hazen, the last page is the best. It’s brief but an important reminder: “The leopard is proud of her spotted coat, the nightingale of his song. The elephant’s glad she has a trunk. The lion’s glad he’s strong. They all agree. “I’m glad I’m me. No one’s more fun or nicer to be.” Remind yourself, be glad you are YOU. Be glad your children have YOU. For your children deep down, don’t want anyone but the real you.
The idea of being kind to yourself is either met with love by some or ironically, resistance, by others. In our society, we are very much entrenched in the idea that if we show compassion toward ourselves, it is a subtle sign that we are weak. Rather, chastising ourselves for our foibles and failures only makes us stronger. In fact, however, research has shown that positive statements toward ourselves actually make us more creative, happy, and good people to be around. Try it some time: the next time you spill milk (especially the breast milk you just pumped OR the formula you just measured), say something like, “oh, honey” or “oh, my dear” or even “oh, _______ (your first name).” Because even removing the ownership of the mistake from first person to third person has an impact. Life really will go on after spilled milk.
For a while, early on in the parenting world especially, put the books down and read your baby instead. This was the best advice I heard once in the wee hours of sleep deprivation but I needed to hear it more. It is counterintuitive because when we’re new at something, we want to figure it out (most of us). The less “figuring out” you do, the better. Just be in it and keep moving forward. Life moves forward whether or not you read the book.