I usually allow the girls an opportunity to play on the computer before school on the condition that they are ready before it’s time to leave and they have the extra time.
This morning, while we were getting ready to leave the house for school, Emma decided she was going to throw a full blown tantrum because she didn’t have a chance to play on the computer before we needed to leave (her fault she didn’t get ready quick enough). It was so tempting to yell at her and snap and say something like, “we don’t have time for this! Knock it off.” Or, “there’s no reason to act like that!” But in that moment and looking at my daughter who was clearly experiencing strong emotions, I decided that her 6 year old feelings needed to be validated as much as anyone else’s. Even though, in my 33 year old mind, it isn’t logical to get upset over something so small, but for her, it is.
So I told her, “I understand why you are upset and I know how disappointing it is when things don’t work out the way you want them to or were expecting them to. And you have every right to be upset about it. But, you do have a choice. You can be upset and get mad and let it steal your joy from your entire day or you can choose to be upset but decide that you aren’t going to let it ruin your day and you can make up your mind to play on the computer later when you have time. Either choice is fine and completely up to you. But if you choose to let it ruin your day, just know that that is your choice and it is nobody else’s fault but yours.”
She let me know she was going to choose to be mad all day by crossing her arms and sinking further into her pout with a loud, “humpf!” So I replied with, “ok. That’s your choice, but I don’t want to hear about it because YOU are choosing it.” I kept doing her hair and I’m not sure what I said, something silly, and she started giggling. And just like that, she chose joy. Without me telling her to stop over reacting, she worked through her frustration and decided being upset wasn’t doing her any good.
2 lessons here for me.
- Our children are far more capable of working through things than we give them credit for and if we give them the tools they need, they’ll be better able to work through difficult situations. Also, our morning was so much more peaceful than it could have been had I made a decision in haste and scolded her for feeling the way she was feeling at that time. Because I was present in the moment and parenting with intention, I was able to calmly explain to her her options. I didn’t coddle her and encourage her outburst, but I didn’t disregard her feelings either.
- Sometimes grown-ups throw tantrums too, and that’s ok. It’s ok to feel a certain way. We all have a choice though. Do we choose to let disappointment steal our joy or do we make a habit of letting these things go and decide to be happy anyway?
It isn’t always easy. Even as I sat writing this, I received a phone call from someone who irritated me more than I should have let it. But that is life. We never know when we’re going to get hit with that irritant. We never know when we’ll get that phone call that will take our day from great to awful in 2.5 seconds. There will always be things that will drive us crazy, but we all have the ability to choose how we let it affect us.
I know that this is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all concept. I know that there are somethings that are much larger than missing out on free time or an irritating phone call. It’s a lot easier to chose joy when your troubles are relatively trivial. But take it from someone who has walked through the fire more than once, even if it takes more time, even if you decide you want to sit in your pain and feel it (which is completely acceptable), you can still find and choose joy under the most trying tribulations. It’s our super power and it’s inside all of us. We decide how happy or how miserable we get to be.
I know this to be true because, as I have been reflecting on 2018, I have been forced to think about where I was at the start of the year. And let me tell you, on January 1, 2018 I was about as lost and broken as I have ever been in my life. My marriage was crumbling, my heart was broken, and my mind was swirling with all the what if’s. I was the furthest from happy as I could get.
But something changed.
I realized that my happiness was my responsibility and mine alone and if I wanted a full and vibrant life, then it was up to me to make it happen. I let go of all the negativity and shifted my perspective. I realized that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to be intentional about it.
So how did that work out for me? Well, I am the happiest I’ve ever been.
Do I make more money? Nope. Did I buy a nicer car? Nope. Bigger house? Nope. Fancier clothes? Nope. I am the happiest I’ve ever been because I choose it.
What will you choose today?
Until next time,