When was the last time you witnessed true joy?
For me, it started with a gorgeous summer day. The sun was shining, and the wind was blowing. My daughter was sitting in her stroller pointing out different objects, telling me all about them in her baby gibberish (she just turned one-year- old). Just as we started down a hill, I heard this hysterical laughter coming from behind me. I looked around to see a mom riding her bike with her daughter riding on a bike attachment behind her. She was laughing hysterically as they flew down the hill. I broke out in laughter myself. And then the thought hit me, I've ridden down hills on my bike hundreds of times, but for that little girl, that was probably her first time.
That young girl's joy and excitement was infectious. I felt better, and I was already having a pretty great day. Seeing her brought to mind the fact there is so much in life to appreciate and enjoy. Yet, we often only look at life's problems or what's next on our to-do list. The busyness and problems of life consume us, edging joy out of our daily experience.
Sadly, I think parents (myself, included) are the worst offenders. Don't get me wrong, it makes sense why parents get stuck in a problem or task perspective. Parents are some of the busiest, most tired, burdened people out there. Parents juggle their own education, their kids education, work, paying bills, childcare, cooking, cleaning and everything else in between. It feels like there is never enough time or energy in the day. I get it! No wonder you only see problems or to do's.
But the danger with this perspective is that you forget the purpose of life. And without any purpose, life isn't possible to cope with. Furthermore, the quality of your parenting drops. Your mental health takes a major hit. Everything feels like its overwhelming.
Joy infuses purpose back into our lives. It helps us realize what is most important. Why we work so hard and care so much about our kids.
The person who solely looks at the negative is living a life of survival and fear. It takes courage to enjoy, to have hope, to rest. And I want to raise my daughter to be a woman of courage. Doing that starts with me enjoying her and showing her how to enjoy.
So even though it's hard to do, the importance of maintaining joy demands that we infuse joy into our daily living.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is my schedule so busy I have no time to rest and relax?
2. Do I delight in my children? Or do I see them as a burden?
3. Do I enjoy the simple things with my kids, like riding a bike down a hill? Singing at the top of your lungs? Playing make-believe?
4. Are you excited to spend time with your kids or do you dread it?
5. Are you irritable or patient with your kids?
This isn't an exhaustive list of questions to determine if you are living a life of joy or survival, but it should get you thinking. Living a life of joy is much more difficult than one that is focused on survival, fear, problems and negativity, that's the easy road. The more challenging path is to live a life of contentment and joy, but the struggle is worth it. Our kids are worth. So, I'll take some of my own advice and stop writing to play peekaboo with my daughter. Enjoy!