Recently I picked up a pamphlet titled "101 Things Parents Can Do to Help Children." I am going to try them all, but not necessarily in order.
The first one, for me, isn't even part of the list. It doesn't even have a number, and it's at the bottom, yet I think that it's the most important Thing of all: "Enjoy life together."
I love it when my kids are happy. I love it when I see that other people's kids are happy. I love it when I'm happy, and I love to see other people happy when they're with their kids.
But, does anyone have perfectly happy kids all the time? And, really, are any parents perfectly happy all the time? Maybe. If that's you, Kudos! I'm not sure that I believe you. More on that later.
My big questions are these: does happiness mean the same thing as enjoyment, do you need one in order to have the other, or can they be independent of one another; and, is 100% enjoyment an attainable (and healthy) goal?
I think that happiness and enjoyment can appear to be the same thing, but I think that they are also very different things. I think that happiness is more of a state of mind or a feeling in your heart, whereas enjoyment is a state of having fun. You can, for instance, be happy with your life in general, but at a particular moment you might not be enjoying what you are doing, or you could be depressed in general, but hey, right this second something tickled your fancy and you actually enjoyed this moment, if even for just a few seconds. So, no, you don’t need one to have the other, but it is probably easier to enjoy life and have fun when you’re happy than when you’re seriously depressed. I’ve known this to be true myself. On the other hand, finding a way to enjoy more and more little moments in your life can sometimes help you become happier in life. This too I know.
Is it possible, though, to enjoy absolutely everything you do, to enjoy 100% of your life (in this case, with your child)? I think only you can answer that for yourself, and I’m sure that someone out there will answer yes, and they might even mean it. Me? All I can do is to try. Yoda would be so disappointed.
Oh sure, I want to enjoy life together with my children, and I want them to enjoy life with me. I have to be realistic, though. I think that the more attainable (and healthier) goal for us would be to strive for 100% happiness. Okay, 90%, because let’s face it, crap happens that will make us sad every now and then. Enjoyment, however?
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that my toddler doesn’t enjoy his time-outs for inappropriate behaviour. Actually, I’m very sure. Yelling “You’re a bad mommy!” at me while I’m putting him in the time-out is a pretty big clue. But am I going to stop giving him time-outs for things like purposefully pouring his milk on the floor at supper time while you are telling him “No! Please do not pour your mil-argh!”? Or for pushing his baby brother over again when you just told him not to do it again or he’ll get a time-out for it? Nope. Time-outs are a pretty necessary thing; I do not want to be the parent with the completely out-of-control, spoiled brat of a child anywhere, even though he honestly tries to be that child sometimes, I swear.
I also don’t think that he thoroughly enjoys having to wear clothes some days (no really, Buddy, it is a social norm to not go out in public naked, honest), or going to bed when he’s not tired even though it’s dark outside (he’s only rubbing his eyes and crying every two seconds because we’re making him go to bed, not because he’s tired, really), or having to come in from the super-fun backyard for a potty break (because apparently telling him that he’ll be going out again right after is a big fat lie even when it isn’t, and is therefore a cause for a mini-meltdown).
I personally don’t enjoy being called a bad mommy, I don’t enjoy feeling like an ogre because I’m constantly correcting/redirecting inappropriate (bad) behaviour (when, exactly, do children stop testing?), I don’t enjoy how physically and mentally exhausted I constantly seem to be (it would be nice if the baby slept for more than two hours at a time), and I really do NOT enjoy having my nipples almost bitten off (somebody’s getting weaned, which actually makes me a little sad (but my boobs will be happier. And less bloody)).
I DO, however, enjoy reading with my kids, I enjoy playing with my kids, I enjoy going for walks with my kids, I enjoy camping with my kids, I enjoy learning with my kids, and I enjoy laughing with my kids. There’s a LOT that I enjoy doing with my kids.
And, generally, I think that we’re pretty happy.
Do you want the reality check, though? Sometimes I think that the 100% people are lying, and sometimes it’s just really hard.
I said at the beginning that I don’t believe the people who seem to be happy 100% of the time. Sure, you may seem to be having lots of fun, but are you trying too hard? Are you spending more time in your car getting to your fun stuff than you are doing the fun stuff? Are you enjoying the trip, too? Shouldn't we be enjoying the journey as well as the destinations? I don't think that you can enjoy life when you're trying so hard to have fun by doing a million fun things a day that you're stressing yourself out.
That, and life throws curveballs at you that can make it hard to enjoy every moment in life. Not impossible, but harder nonetheless.
My second pregnancy/childbirth did reeealy funky things to my hormones. Some days it’s all I can do to not cry. For no reason. It takes an extra effort on those days to not snap at my kids and at my husband. Thankfully those days are in the minority.
My friend, however, is fighting (and winning the battle against) Cancer. SHE is exhausted, and with good reason. She is finding it so hard to enjoy her kids right now. She is finding it very difficult to do all of the things that she used to enjoy on a regular basis. In fact, it’s a win for her if she gets off the couch, and she’s feeling guilty about all of the things that she’s NOT doing with her younger child that she did for the older one.
How do we enjoy life with our children when crap like this happens?
For me, I’m trying to find the balance between OCD Uptight Freak-Show and Lazy Lackadaisical Useless Parent. I’m trying to do more fun things with my kids without going overboard—we all need downtime, too.
For my friend, she needs to know that it’s okay for her to spend days on the couch. I’ve seen her on her bad days. She’s still there for her kids, no matter what, which is more than I can say for some healthy parents. She needs to know, too, that it’s okay to take a break from doing all of the things that she used to do (hobbies, crafts, etc.). She needs to know that it’s okay to sleep on someone else’s couch while visiting, because hey, who wouldn’t like to be able to do that? She has an end date for her chemo, so really, she needs to know that there will come a day when she’ll not only feel like, but will be able to do everything that she wants to do. She’ll be able to have more high-energy fun with her kids. For now, though? I’m sure that she has moments where she can find enjoyment with them, even if they’re little moments.
I think maybe I’ll (try to) conclude here (it’s late, I’m tired, and what was supposed to be a shorty has turned out to be a bit long—ramble much?) even if it feels a bit random.
“Enjoy life together.”
In my quest to do these 101 Things, I will try to enjoy them all. And, in doing everything else that I do with my children, and husband, I will try to enjoy them all, too. And, of course, I hope that my kids and my husband enjoy it all too.
I would like us all to be Happy most of the time while Enjoying the Fun things (with realistic expectations, of course) because even though we all have to do things that we don’t want to do at times, the fun should outweigh the miserable. Shouldn’t it?
I'd like it to.
How do you enjoy life with your children?
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