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Joy Is You (We Want You to be Happy)

March 28, 2011

“Life is about finding our joy.”

happiness and joy

An acupuncturist said this to me over ten years ago and I actually laughed.  Maybe it was  my needle anxiety, but I really did laugh.  I thought she was nutty.    Life about finding joy? No, no, no. Life (for me),  was about work. Responsibility. Working hard. Wasn’t that the deal for everyone?

I was doing a brief stint as a stay-at-home mom, eagerly looking to teach after we relocated. I was constantly working. I was the one a bit nutty. Some would stay I still am, but my perceptive has taken a gigantic shift.

Seeking joy is not inherently in me. It takes effort. It’s penciled in lightly on every to-do list. Without that reminder, I’d forget. Luckily, I spend every day of my life with at least two fantastic kids, often several dozen kids who remind me – and sucks me right into their joy.  It’s a constant reminder that joy is all around us if we simply open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to it.

Life is changeable. It might be short. It’s fluid and can be interrupted at any point. Happiness is a gift and a choice.  That’s the compelling reasons to find the joy in each day.  Tomorrow might not bring the same opportunities for joy and laughter, so grab it while you can!

Fortunately, most children are blissfully unaware of how vulnerable we all are. Most live for the moment and when given the opportunity, they will thrive in the moment – taking in  as much as they can, asking questions, making connections, laughing, moving and living richly.

As I work with young children, the eagerness and joy to take on the world is a part of every breath they take and it’s contagious. Whether it’s a bowl full of rocks they explore while wondering aloud or stretching those shoulder muscles while painting at an easel ( he very same muscles that will later allow them to grasp and control writing tool), the children explore with joy and enthusiasm. Seeing the world through their eyes is invigorating, particularly when you are able to do so with the purpose of letting them grow in ways that don’t simply reflect your own goals or bias or agenda.

Often adults feel they are the holder of knowledge and experience and that our job is to pour said knowledge into the heads and bodies of children. However, when you take on the mindset that adults role is to guide, mentor, and wonder alongside children, it’s easier to share the joy and often, to learn something new about the child, yourself and/or the world.

On the other side of the coin, when children experience a pattern of distractions, their perception of the world shifts. It’s hard to find a parent who doesn’t feel busy, stressed or torn. We all are, but it’s essential we make time to put aside the to-do lists, the phone, computer, laundry or whatever, to be fully present with our kids. They may not understand our reasons for multitasking, but they sense they are not valued or are at least, unimportant in the very moment they are living in.  Children learn that it’s okay not to make eye contact, to mumble something that resembles a response but that doesn’t value them the speaker, that relationships don’t always matter.  I hear kids report and react in this manner far too often, either by self-deprecating remarks (“it doesn’t matter, my mom won’t even read it…”) or painfully honest opinions such as “well, actually they wouldn’t care if I got lost in a store because their life would be easier…”  Just maybe these little guys have lost some of that joy because they perceive a pattern of joy-less (or less joyful) life with the adults around them.

Happiness and joy are about being present. About being here, not there. (Remember Jon Kabot Zin’s book – Wherever You Go, There You Are?)

Joy and presence require us to clarify our priorities and stick to them. It means being authentic to ourselves an honoring our responsibilities, especially those to our children. It’s hard. It takes constant vigilance and commitment, but it’s possible.
When things are going well celebrate. Patty Digh suggests keeping candles to celebrate the little things. (My own kids tease me incessantly about this, but it’s one more way to get a good laugh!).  When things don’t go well, you’ve got to have a robust emotional bank account that builds resiliency.  And when things are somewhere in the middle, you can choose to look at the glass have empty or half full. If you do the latter, you’re bound to find some joy as well! We want them to be happy and we want you to be happy, too!

Need a little help finding a smidge of happiness, click here.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    March 28, 2011 3:06 pm

    What wise thoughts! Your post reminds me of something Chip Wood said recently–that the light has gone out of many children’s eyes and that it’s up to us to put it back.

    As you point out, joy comes so naturally to children. I was reminded of that this weekend when I read one of Sarah Pennypacker’s Clementine books, which Chip just wrote about on his Yardsticks blog. One book turned me into a huge fan, and one of the ingredients I most loved was Pennypacker’s clear sense of how much joy children find in seemingly ordinary things: eating pizza on the roof of your apartment building on summer evenings with your parents, unwrapping the crinkly paper from the glasses in a hotel room, learning the names of new vegetables at a Chinese grocery, or, in the case of Clementine’s baby brother, just waking up each morning and seeing your feet!

    As Pennypacker does, you remind us that children can indeed be our teachers and not only our students. Thanks, Lisa.

    • Lisa Dewey Wells, Wonder of Children permalink*
      March 29, 2011 2:35 am

      Elizabeth – Bravo! I love Clementine. Everytime I look at one of the covers, I smile. She is an incredible character. I wrote about her a while back, too. Great inspiration…

      Thanks for writing and for sharing the joy!

      Lisa

  2. March 29, 2011 10:25 pm

    Lisa, I’m so glad you posted this at we teach! I totally agree. Our attitude shapes us, and looking for those joyful moments mean they arrive more and more often, I believe. I also totally agree about being a learning partner and mentor rather than a head-stuffer. Though sadly, for much of my teaching life, I’m afraid I was the latter. To make up for it, I try to share my love of play and learning via my blog. I hope that counts!

  3. April 4, 2011 1:09 pm

    Children are wonderful for restoring joy. Our attitudes shape them, they shape ours. It’s amazing if you allow yourself the time to be able to actually feel rather than just rushing through your day.

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