There are so many things we want to teach our kids. Riding their bike. Reading. Hell, just manners. But there are some key lessons that I think if kids can learn early, will give them (and you, because c'mon, we are drowning in this parenting gig sometimes) a more joyful life as they go through childhood, the teenage years, and onto adulthood. And one of my favorite things I attempt to pass on to my kids is the art of joyful living.
Allow Them to Dally
This snow was Griffin's shoe display. And I was being the impatient toddler.
Surely I could do as well as he did at the store.
So I stood there and let him have as much time as he wanted, crunching snow around the entire building. I had the time that day, but just hadn't realized I could do this. I had to ignore my knee-jerk response to keep us moving along and getting to the next thing. I fidgeted the way a toddler does, but I made it. I gave him his time and I had to deal with slowing down. It's dreadfully uncomfortable sometimes.
Note: I do not mean that you have to do this EVERY time. Sometimes, we just don't have the time to dally. But when we do, I think it's so important to do; it balances out our speedy, fast life and shifts our perspective to enjoying a slower pace of living. AND I guarantee you, your kid will be much more gracious when you ask them to move along as you develop a relationship where you value each other's delights.
Teach Them To See Beauty
As Griffin grew, he began pointing out the way the colors reflected on the clouds during sunsets, or the rain dripping off the leaves in weaving patterns...my sweet boy had learned to see the details of the world that are there for everyone to enjoy...as long as we take the time to see them.
I didn't quite realize the lesson I was teaching him, I was merely enjoying exploring with my little boy while I did my job, but I quickly learned the value of our experience and now aim to do the same with my youngest boys, even if I'm not scouting weddings at the moment. Noticing the beauty in everyday life takes practice...it doesn't always happen naturally in our fast-paced world.
Let Them Get Bored...A Lot
the first week of letting your kid get bored SUUUUUCKS.
They ask you to do things all the time, whine about how there is nothing to do, and beg you for screen time.
I mean, I get it. I HATE BEING WITHOUT SCREENS MYSELF.
But when I'm bored is when my creative side of my brain starts taking over and ideas start splattering around, looking for an outlet. Help your children hone that skill...to unlock their creativity. In boredom, innovation is born. They will build forts or daydream or read or explore...or better yet, have their own revelations about the world around them...they just need to get bored enough to do it in the first place.
Give their minds a chance to marinate in a slow world.
Add Dancing to Just About Everything
Alternatively, sometimes put on something beautiful and slow, and help teach them to recognize the mood of the music. To feel what it is communicating. My son loves dancing to how the music feels. It's a very attentive way of listening to music for a kid and is a wonderful introduction to empathy. I love getting goofy and silly and dancing our way through boring household tasks, but I also love our slower moments where my sons wrap their arms around me and we dance around the living room "elegantly" to Bach or whimsically to Gluck. I know we are having fun, but also learning to cherish each other to a level I'm not sure I could have achieved another way.
Give Them Chores
There is immense satisfaction to be found in a job well done. And children experience this like no other. Yes, they'll complain about their chores sometimes, but if you can help make the experience fun (through above suggestions), praise them for hard work as they work, and delight in the finished product, you'll have a beaming child that often can't wait to help with whatever you need them to clean next. Excitement over this waxes and wanes, so don't come back to me upset when your kid is grumbling constantly about chores...that's just part of the deal (see boredom section above).
Chores (a kid word for "everyday duties") are essential to a purposeful life, and learning how to do them well and to completion daily is an incredible lesson to your child, and one they will take with them into adulthood. Work ethic is one of the most important things any of us can possess, and as parents, one of the best things we can help our children cultivate.