Every once in awhile, I find myself repeating the motherly warnings from my childhood–things I swore I would never dispense to my own children. “Just remember, Mommy has eyes on the back of her head.” Or my favorite, “Suck in that bottom lip before I cut it off!”
One day, after listening to my five year old whine for an hour that he didn’t have enough toys, I rattled off another cliché mom-ism. With too much edginess in my voice to make it believable, I preached, “Happiness is a decision.”
Boy, he saw right through my hypocrisy. Grinning he said, “Mommy, you are making a bad decision.”
I realized his method of teaching was far more effective than my own. Where I regurgitated silly expressions as seemed applicable, he cut straight to the heart with gentle honesty. Like most children, he is quicker to smile, quicker to make friends, and quicker to forgive than any adult I have ever known. Why would I lecture him on happiness?
I committed to take my own advice, and decided to be happy. It should be easy, right? After all, I have my son from whom I can draw inspiration. So began my experimental journal. I documented our first conversation each morning for one week, hoping he would have valuable lessons to teach me. He did not disappoint.
I wake to the sound of laughter, the whole-body kind of laughter that only five-year-old boys can produce. I smile groggily, and look over at my husband who smiles without opening his eyes. Moments later, Logan stomps through the door, singing, “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.”
“What were you laughing at?” I ask.
He pauses, that precocious smile spreading over his face and topaz eyes sparkling, and looks at the empty space between me and the ceiling only to giggle all over again.
“It must be nice to wake up so happy every morning.”
He looks down at me, eyebrows furrowing, “I will help you be happy . . . tomorrow.”
Today, he’s teaching me to laugh even if there is no obvious reason for doing it.
Logan climbs into bed with me. I only notice because of the elbows and knees digging into my legs and back. He settles under the covers and lays perfectly still, long enough that I think he’s fallen asleep again. I open one eye, shocked to see him staring right at me.
“You’re such a pretty girl,” he whispers.
“Thank you,” I respond as my heart melts.
“Just like me.” I laugh, and his raspy voice laughs right along with me.
Today he’s teaching me the power of freely-given, genuine compliments.
A tiny hand repeatedly smacks my forehead. “Mommy, the sun is up. Get out of bed or it will go back down!”
Today I’m learning that I need to wake up before the sun . . . and the boy. But more importantly, I’m learning to enjoy mornings.
I’ve outwitted him by setting my alarm. I roll out of bed and start stretching, only to find within seconds, he is next to me mimicking each move.
“Oh, Mommy. It feels soooo good to stretch my guts.” He looks again at that empty space above me. “And my butt.”
Sometimes we take health for granted. Today he’s teaching me to slow down and enjoy the feeling of a healthy body.
I gasp, grabbing my chest. “Honey, it freaks Mommy out to have you staring at me when I open my eyes.”
He doesn’t bother to consider my plea. “I have to tell you something. You’re not Spiderman. You’re Spidermom!” He laughs so hard he falls to the ground, clutching his stomach.
My stomach muscles get their workout before my feet hit the floor. No matter how much we notice our own shortcomings, our children see us as superheroes. Every day, he teaches me to look at myself, and others, through optimistic eyes.
He curls up in bed next to me, wraps his warm little arms around me, and squishes my ear as he rests his head on mine. “Mommy, you’re my buddy, right?”
I reply, “Of course, best buddies.”
“I double love you,” he sighs. “Forever and ever.”
I have so much to learn from this child. He continues to teach me that happiness is easy when you surround yourself with loving people.
I can’t wait for him to wake up and see what he’ll teach me today.
QUESTION: What is the last thing you remember learning from your child?
CHALLENGE: Take this day to be the learner instead of the teacher. Listen and appreciate life through the eyes of your children–you may find a long-forgotten happiness.