Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Happy Child

I know some parents have the mentality that it's not their job to make sure their children are happy.  If their children are too happy, they aren't doing their jobs as parents.  Some parents believe it's their job to make sure their kids are prepared for the big, bad disappointment of the real world.  Some parents take pleasure in deliberately making their children unhappy. 

I say, "Huh?"

I mean, I'm not a perfect parent and certainly my kiddo isn't happy all of the time...let alone happy with me all of the time.  Heck, a few minutes ago, she got all grumpy because I told her it was time to head upstairs for her bath.

But mostly, I want my child to be happy and it's my pleasure as her mother to say and do things that help her feel happy.  I don't say, "No" just for the sake of saying it and if I do refuse something she's requested of me and asks, "Why?", I try to help her understand without falling back on the lame-o, "Because I said so."

That's not to say she's the boss of the house.  She's not.  Not by a long shot.

I don't want my kiddo thinking that she doesn't have a voice.  Some parents think that kids shouldn't have any say in the house rules, that kids shouldn't be allowed to make decisions.

I say, "Fooey."  My kid isn't going to be the kind of person who has to figure out at age 18 how to navigate life.  I find it both entertaining and dismaying when parents just expect their 18-year-olds to be perfect adults when they haven't given their kids a chance to learn what it even means to be an adult.  I get the concept of learning through modeling, but kids need a chance to practice for themselves!

My kiddo understands our house rules and why they're in place.  We let her have some say in the development of our house rules.  Yelling is reserved for emergencies.  No hitting, no pinching, no biting, no kicking, no scratching, no screaming...unless someone is trying to kidnap or hurt you, and then that person is fair game for whatever you can dish out.  No lying.  No secrets.  If you're a guest and you think you can get away with saying a bad word or calling someone a not-nice name, you better watch out.  She'll be on you in a flash, lecturing you about manners and what is and what is not acceptable in our home.

Granted, it's based on what we as her parents are teaching her.  We're aware that she's always watching and listening and learning from us.  She's in elementary school, but that doesn't stop me from teaching her about what's acceptable and what isn't.  She's young, but it doesn't stop me from sharing some of the details of our financial situation and what we can and cannot reasonably afford.  And if there's something she wants that we can't afford, she helps with coming up with a plan to budget for it. 

I guess in our home, we try not to say, "No" too often and I'm finding now that when we do say, "No", she takes it seriously.  We believe in the power of, "Yes!" and "Sure!" and "Well, not yet, but let's see what we can do."  My hope is that by being more cheerful and optimistic than negative, it's teaching her realistic and positive ways to approach real-life problems and come up with solutions.  She's started small--for example, she wanted more time to read at night, but I wasn't willing to make her bedtime any later than it was.  She came up with the solution of skipping 20 minutes of television and swapping her leisurely baths for quicker showers.  Her solution, not mine.  I didn't even present her with options.  I just said, "Well, what do you think you can change to have more time for reading before bed?"  I never implied that she had to sacrifice anything.  She gave it some thought and came up with a solution that worked for her.  And some nights, when she wants to watch a little television or play in the bath, she knows she gets her regular amount of reading time.  She's learning about decisions and actions and consequences.

My hope is that these small decisions now help her make good decisions in the future.  Of course, I say that now, but we'll see what happens when she becomes a teenager.

Anyway.

I want my kiddo to be happy as much as possible.  Happiness is a state of mind, a feeling, an emotion.  Happiness is action.  Happiness is whatever we choose to be.  Some people think that happiness is random and fleeting and doesn't last.  To a degree, I agree with that--I can be happy because of things and events and yes, that's temporary.  Real joy, for me, comes from remembering that happiness and experiencing it all over again.  That's something I want to teach my daughter. 

I want her to know that she should be prepared for disappointment and then choose to be happy anyway.

I think the world has a lot of good and a lot of bad in it and I want her to feel like her parents and her home are where she can run to, no matter how old she is, when things get really hard or really painful.  The world and the people in it are going to hurt and disappoint her enough without me adding to it.  My kiddo has never flinched in fear or had to hide from me or her dad.  She trusts us to keep her safe and not hurt her and I want her to always feel that good about our relationship.  It's not to say that we can shield her from everything bad, I know we can't.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Un-Ringing the Bell

I've heard the saying, "You can't un-ring the bell."  Basically, there are some things you can't un-do, words you can't take back, decisions you can't un-make.  To me, it translates to regret.  I work hard to live my life with few regrets--regret is a time-waster in my world.

But if I could, what would I un-do?

Un-do my snarky comment to my 6-year-old this morning when she was being ill-mannered and too sassy, only my tone was too harsh and made her cry?  Un-do the long, arduous day I spent at the in-laws house yesterday?  Un-do the last 2 years of financial worries?

Decisions are a big deal in life and I know so many people who are stuck on one decision (or a few decisions) that snowballed into life-changing circumstances and they now bemoan their fate, going on about how if they could "just go back to that one moment and change what I did." 

Ummm...no.  And why?

Aren't all decisions life-changing, no matter how big or small they are?

I mean, in simple terms, the strawberry milkshake and cheese curds I ate yesterday could be the very things that start clogging my arteries, resulting in a heart attack in 27 years.  The blistering sunburn I got at 22 (because I thought I didn't need to re-apply my sunscreen after 7 hours outside at baseball games) could lead to skin cancer next month.  Ignoring the chronic UTI symptoms I had 2 years ago could have resulted in bladder cancer taking over my life instead of being caught early.

I believe in the concept of "the butterfly effect".  I don't remember the original quote or who it's attributed to (and I don't feel like looking it up right now), but the idea is that the flutter of a butterfly's wings could change the weather halfway around the world.  It's not just about the flutter of the butterfly's wings, but all of the circumstances surrounding that nanosecond.

We don't make decisions in a vacuum.

This is not to say that I don't have regrets--I have a few--nor does it mean that I wouldn't change things if I could.  But what else would I be un-doing if I went back and changed things?  How many lives would be affected by my life-changing decision to go back and change a decision?  Everything I do on any given day changes the course of someone else's life, in addition to my own.  That's a lot of responsibility to live with on any given day.

Oddly enough, I often give more thought to things I wish other people would un-do than I do to the things I wish I could un-do, and even then, it's usually because I've been hurt or angered by their decisions.  I recognize that they have their reasons for their decisions, but it's usually hard to see it in the moment.

I know I wouldn't un-do a friendship that has been way too much work.  I wouldn't un-do my beautiful daughter, no matter how sick she's been or how hard her first few years of life were or how scary it is to wait on so many medical test results.  I wouldn't un-do a first, hesitant kiss in the dark or awkward hand-holding afterward. 

I wouldn't un-do any tears or laughter or heartbreak or anger.

Even if I don't see how it's helpful to me, I can hold fast to the hope that somehow, somewhere, it is or will be helpful to someone.