One thing that we know about childhood is that children have a remarkable ability to be completely IN the present moment.
This is why they would rather keep playing and not put their shoes on to go somewhere (even a place they LOVE). (Add 10 minutes.)
This is why, once shoes are on, they become entranced watching ants march down the sidewalk in front of the open car door. (Add another 2-10 minutes.)
And why – when you finally make it to your destination – they may not want to get out of the car. (Add another 2-5 minutes and now you’re really late for your next thing.)
Why does this happen?
And how can we not be so triggered by it?
First, the why.
Because kids are completely untethered from the notion of time (in fact, until about age 3, it means absolutely nothing to them, and even then, the notion of time is pretty hazy), all they understand is what is in the Now. What is right in front of them. What is present.
And second, because kids are pretty new to the planet, they are wide open to new experiences that seem “unimportant” to us adults.
They can experience Joy in the smallest of things.
And we adults can find this confusing and aggravating.
Don’t they understand that time moves quickly?
Don’t they know that we have to rush rush rush now so that we can get to the next thing and hurry up and enjoy that before rushing off to the next thing so that we can also fit that into a day that is moving faster than we anticipated and now we might have to cross something off the list of things we absolutely needed to get done today and …..
See what happened there?
How did you feel as you read that last paragraph?
I got that tight feeling in my chest as I read it (and I wrote it!) – it did not feel good.
So, what to do about it? And what does any of this have to do with Joy?
Well, here’s the thing:
If Joy is the feeling of delight, of curiosity, of appreciation, of PRESENCE in whatever activity or place we find ourselves, then we can experience WHENEVER WE WANT.
Unlike Happiness, it is not related to a specific activity or outcome.
Joy is activity-agnostic. (Which is why, even in Death and War, it is still possible to experience Joy.)
Ok, but what does that mean for those of us who are just trying to make it through the day?
How can I – a frazzled, exhausted parent at holiday time – experience more joy?
Enter into the present moment with your child. Watch them having their moment. Do what they are doing. Fully. Without distractions. (Set a timer if you need to, but do this!)
So, if they only want to play with the wrapping paper of the very expensive gift that Grandma bought them, watch them play with the wrapping paper.
If they want to play with a toy in an unusual way, watch them play with it in that way (and maybe even join them).
When we let kids lead during play, they listen more often when you ask them to do something and they grow in confidence, gratitude, satisfaction and self-esteem.
And you get less stressed. Win-Win, no?
There’s no limit to the amount of Joy a person can feel. It’s not a limited resource. We don’t have to spend it wisely or measure it out in certain doses. But we do have to practice recognizing it and fostering it.
What does it feel like for you when you allow yourself to join in your child’s feelings of Joy?
Will you let me know?
PS. Sometimes expressions of Joy in young children are loud and “out of control”. Remember that they’re still learning and that they will need LOTS of practice. A gentle reminder or a walk outside might help.
PPS. If you read this and thought: “Nope. I can’t”. We’ve got a new Raising Orchid Kids class starting in January that might be a good place to be. You can read more about the program at www.raisingorchidkids.com/core-course.