Recently I was at the park with some parents and their kids from my daughters’ school. As I watched, one of the parents picked her daughter up and was engaged in a conversation, on both of their faces was a look of sheer joy.
In that moment I was taken back to the time when I had my first child and the frequency with which I used to revel in her company. The contrast was so sharp with today’s relationship that, in that moment, a strong desire was born to get back to the place where I can revel.
How was I going to fix it? Perhaps I needed to start by practicing what I write about I thought to myself ironically. Here I am writing each week about the criticality of feeling good above all else, and how my job is to feel good about the here and now, reaching for things in the present that feel the way I want to feel.
So then the perennial thought arose about what a wonderfully imperfect being I am, and thank goodness or else I’d have nothing to write about. More accurately I’d have no room for growth, and I love learning and growth.
The quickest way to revel in time with the kids is to look for the most positive aspects about that right now. simple but not easy at first. Write a list, every day, of the things you love about them. Urgh! I know, but it's the best way to focus. This was a struggle for me too, I could wax lyrical about the sugar that got spilled this morning, or the pancake that got wasted, or the sheets that need washed again but the good stuff…. what good stuff?
Instead of focusing on, in essence, the things that create more work for us, it’s time to focus on the truly amazing beings they are becoming every day, Like when I tidying away the old baby wraps and muslins one night , wondering what the heck I was thinking adding these to the play pile, then shifted gear, wondering what the next magical thing will be that these cloths are about to become. One day they are a cape, the next a dolly wrap, the next a partition in a ‘house’ and the next a picnic rug.
Each day now I write in a journal all the good stuff. It’s tempting to record the other things I mentioned for posterity too, but then that’s feeding the energy. If they are really driving you nuts you may have to go general to even get into it, like how they have grown or how great it is that, generally, they keep good health.
Then it becomes easier to think about more specific things, which sparks memories of other things. Before you know it, 3 pages (each) get filled, when you really only need to do a side for each. But it’s creating momentum, positive momentum.
As I said in How to Feel Good (Despite Your Kids, Employees or Coworkers) catching people doing the good stuff is the ONLY thing worth doing. You are energy, every thought, action and feeling has energy attached to it. Every time I catch them doing the bad stuff, it gives more energy to it.
Even if you are better than most, and catch them doing the bad stuff and good stuff all you do is neutralise the energy. Plus every time I hear myself say “good tidying” or “good manners” or some version of “good job” I feel like a dog trainer and it just feels disingenuous.
You are not, at your core, neutral energy. Your wellbeing depends upon you tapping into the good stuff, which means focusing on the more positive than negative attributes of anything.
But what do you do when your kids are being unsafe, or are about to destroy property? Intervene. Break your attention to the dinner you are making, the floor you are vacuuming, the washing you are folding, the lawn you are mowing, the garden you are weeding, the thing you are building, the TV programme you are watching, whatever it is, resist the temptation to yell, physically intervene and steer them away from trouble.
Remember, at the heart of our human wiring to learn is 'doing', experience and imitation, then layered with emotional intelligence in later years and only then thoughts (we tend not to act from a point of rationalising things out until the teenage years).
The very reason we know “that will taste yucky” is because, at some point in our past, we put that in our mouths, or something like it. However, in the case of the unsafe stuff or the destroying property scenario, intervene.
They will know from the tense arm and alert state you are in crossing the road that it’s something to watch out for, they will know by the swiftness of your movement to catch the teetering vase and the sigh of relief as you catch it that was not a fun game. Hence the saying “what you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say”.
We could all take a lead from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, who never yells at the kids or gives them a list of what they are not allowed to do, she just focuses on what she would like them to do and often just quietly takes their hand and leads them to something more constructive. And boy does she have command of that ship.
All in all then, we need to reprogramme ourselves from all that we experienced and observed growing up, all our subconscious tapes... no small feat, but possible. Not by trying to erase the old tapes, they will remain, but to shift focus from them, by creating a different experience often enough.
You will slip up, even on the day of writing this I admit that, upon finding my youngest 'cleaning' the sink with my facial moisturizer after spending two hours combing nits out of their hair was somewhat taxing, let's say I wasn't reveling. But forgive yourself, reset and try again.
Focus on the great stuff, and build momentum on that. It’s time to seek out those joyous moments, revel in the experience of it, and keep following that path, getting in the flow of your own wellbeing. It starts with intention and desire, which – if you are still reading – you clearly have. So happy path finding.
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