Hard-Core Happy About Life

I watched an awesome video this week of my nephew, Sebastian, who had just learned to ride a bike.  My brother posted it on Facebook which allowed our family to share in the momentous occasion.  I miss my family and I miss my little Sebas; only just six years old and passionate about absolutely everything and I’m not embellishing, this kid is hard-core happy about life! 

What struck me like a big thump on the head (and the heart) was the way in which my brother handled Sebastian’s triumphant success on his bicycle.  You see, Sebastian was doing fantastic and then, as bicycle riders in training often do, had a bit of a nasty spill and hit the ground hard.  You could hear my brother in the background saying “Doing good, doing good….oh, and there he goes, takes a spill and keeps on going!”  And then you hear my brother yell at the top of his vocal chords…”You go Sebas, good job buddy!”  And off my nephew rides, so proud of himself and clearly thrilled that Dad was standing close to cheer him on. 

What I witnessed in the video was a father so deeply engaged in his child’s life that his six-year-old was able to recover from a disappointing fall, dust himself off and regain control of his bike.  No tears, no tantrums, just a face of determination.   Little Sebastian displayed pure confidence and resilience; two qualities found in children who are taught to believe in themselves and who watch their parents’ daily example of confidence and resilience. 

The bike wasn’t going to get the best of Sebastian and you could see it on his face.  At the end of the video, he looked up with a grin that spread from ear to ear.   It was beautiful and not just because it was my completely adorable nephew, but because you could see the future in that face…hard-core happy about life and the beginnings of a really great man.  

Good job little brother.

Advertisements

Locked Inside the House of Fear

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.” — Norman Vincent Peale

There are times in our lives when we reach a crossroad before us and we haven’t a clue how to proceed.  We are faced with a challenge, a difficult decision or a painful life dilemma and it lingers around us begging for answers.  We want out of the house of fear but end up succumbing to the safety net of not having to make a difficult decision because we are  afraid of the unknown, afraid of the obstacle and unsure of the path we should take.  We have all been at this point; however, what separates us from the rest is how we overcome the fear and conquer the obstacle that is keeping us from reaching goals or simply moving life forward.

Fear keeps us from success because it causes deep-rooted insecurity, anxiety and low self-worth.  This unfortunately leads to poor decision-making and/or ignoring the inevitable or on the flip side, ignoring the possible.

I was fortunate to be among a group of women at a professional women’s event recently where one of the speakers said something powerful that resonated deep inside, “If you must make a difficult decision, ask yourself this question, am I making this decision out of fear or out of courage?”  – Dr. Deborah German.  Dr. German’s point being, always make your decision out of courage, even if you fail.   The courageous decision will move your life forward, allow you to unlock the door and exit the house of fear which releases you from the anxiety and insecurity blocking your success.

Many of us find ourselves facing obstacles everyday, some more difficult than others; however, as women, as mothers, as friends we have the power within to fight back, be courageous, be supportive of each other and move our lives forward; leaving behind the house of fear and opening doors to finding success and pursuing wonderful new dreams.

Thank you & You’re Welcome

A few weeks ago, I witnessed how a friend of mine had so deeply instilled a sense of appreciation and gratitude in her children.  I watched and I admired love and graciousness and although the economic times had delivered a severe blow to their family, there were smiles, there were hugs for everyone, there was a sense of well-being despite the tough circumstances.  They displayed appreciation for their parents and the sacrifices they had made to make all of their lives complete…I thought to myself, these are good parents and we could all learn a little something from them.

Raising children who appreciate what they have been given can be a daunting task for parents these days.  Perhaps it is our incessant need to be their friend instead of their parent, perhaps it is a lack of time to invest in instilling gratefulness, perhaps it is easier to cater to their every need rather than say “no” and have to wage a battle of wills.

I’m the first to admit parenting is a complicated job because it requires not only our full-time attention but our emotional and mental strength and let’s face it, there are not too many of us with a lot of spare time in our day.  Whether you are a work-at-home parent or a work-outside-the-home parent, life is fast paced and full of  “gratefulness obstacles”.   Taking the time to teach our children to appreciate not only what they have, but to appreciate us as their parents is imperative to raising a well-balanced child who will eventually become a well-balanced and successful adult.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  ~G.K. Chesterton

 A child who is appreciative typically understands what you’ve sacrificed or given whole-heartedly as a parent (even if they are not willing to admit it).   This also creates respect, which is a key element to appreciation and gratefulness.  There has been enormous debate recently, regarding the Tiger Mom and her views on parenting and although this concept is from a completely different culture and not widely accepted or utilized among the typical American family, it does spark conversation on how we, as parents, can successfully instill responsibility and respect into our children.   I believe there is a middle ground out there that works but it is not without parental effort, dedication and follow through.

Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.  ~Henry Clay

Through my parenting years I’ve learned that in general, children do not see past what effects their immediate world, which is a natural response, especially for the challenging teen years.  On the flip side, it’s important to consistently discuss gratefulness and appreciation with our children and provide examples of what it means and how it feels.  Asking them to write a thank you note for a gift, requiring them to say “thank you” every time someone, even a family member, does something nice or helpful, helping someone in need and even parental instruction, advice and rule setting can bring about a more grateful and appreciative child.   They may not see the lesson or the love as the instruction leaves your lips, but it will most certainly be heard and felt and it will provide a basis for gratitude because it shows you care.

I believe in asking our children to work hard for good grades, be responsible with their time, help with chores around the house, be respectful and loving to parents and siblings and in return, mom, dad or both provide the things they need and/or want.  When disrespect, ungrateful expectation and taking parents for granted come into the picture, it’s a red flag to take a step back and evaluate life in your home.  Raising children who appreciate their home and their surroundings, naturally brings with it loving side effects like graciousness, self-respect, self-confidence and overall happier children…that is well worth the effort.

I Am Happiest When…

I have discovered I’m happiest when:

I learn to love where I am in life at that very moment.

I’m happiest when:

I can laugh at myself.

 

I’m happiest when:

I see a little bit of me in my daughter.

I’m happiest when:

I am organized.

I’m happiest when:

I dont’ feel the need to be anyone but myself.

I’m happiest when:

I work very hard to reach a difficult goal and appreciate the journey.

I’m happiest when:

I walk through my home, early in the morning, enjoying the quiet and thanking God for the faces on the wall that have become a daily reminder of the love that constantly surrounds me.

I’m happiest when:

I receive an unexpected “I Love You” before my little girl goes to bed.

I’m happiest when:

I see my daughters sweet face after a long day and it reminds me why I work so hard.

I’m happiest when:

I realize that I alone control my destiny and I alone make the decision to be happy.

Spread the HAPPY and Don’t Wear White After Labor Day

 At my house we give these awesome little “Happy’s” to each other.  Not all the time, just now and then and I think it’s such a cool idea (which I cannot take credit) that I wanted to share it with all of you today.  I really love this…here is how it started. 

During my first job out of college I met one of my dearest friends, Susie.  She was (and still is) a lovely, gracious and beautiful Southern Belle with perfect skin and hair (of course).  I, on the other hand, with a lot of the SoCal girl still in my blood and a love for all things a bit left of center, flip-flops and my Jeep, didn’t exactly scream “Debutante”,  but hey, I managed.  Anyway, I think she was the first person to embrace my somewhat offbeat personality and I think I might have been the first to admire her complete sense of style and total togetherness.  It was then, and is still today a relationship that I treasure.  Not only did I learn more than I ever thought I could learn about the appropriate wardrobe for good Southern girls (like never wearing white or patent leather after labor day (which was never and is still probably not a rule in California), she taught me a little something about spreading happiness to the ones you love.

     

A “Happy” is a little surprise gift you give to a friend, a loved one, a spouse or a child.  It’s a simple gift that says “you’re important to me”.   A “Happy” doesn’t have to be expensive or a one-of-a-kind treasure, just personal; no breaking the bank on this one.  One of my first “Happy’s” from Susie through the years was a necklace.  It was not just any necklace because it had a little glass bird charm on the chain and she knew I LOVED birds.  How thoughtful, how very cool it was to have her sunshiny self drop by my house with a “Happy” for her friend.  It meant so much to me and made me feel so good that she thought of me that day and she didn’t even realize it had been a difficult week.   This was the little ray of happiness that gave me a smile and made me feel like things were looking up.   

I adopted this creative gift giving ritual and use it with my family.  Although sometimes a “Happy” in our house is simply bringing home their favorite ice cream and movie, It’s also finding my daughter a fun set of earrings and wrapping them up in a colorful bag and placing it on her bed so she will find it after school or surprising my nieces with cool and colorful flip-flops.  It’s a small gesture that delivers a big dose of wonderful. 

So here’s a challenge; think about a little something special you can bring home tonight to your kids, the hubby, significant other or a fantastic neighbor and start spreading the “Happy” beginning today!

Mom, Your Child-Like Spirit Was Genius

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity – Aldous Huxley

When I was about nine I remember my mother strapping on roller skates and taking me for a spin on the carport that sat just below our house.  I also remember her taking my sister, brother and I to the top of our motor home,  in the middle of the desert, with canvas and paints in hand so we could paint the sunset.  How cool is that?  At the time, I couldn’t appreciate her child-like enthusiasm for life but now I draw upon it as if it were a part of my very existence.   I love these memories of my mom because she was so unconventional and she didn’t think like a grown-up.  I’m certain her child-like enthusiasm gave me a piece of my inner self that otherwise would not exist.  Whether I knew it or not, spending this kind of play time with her was a huge confidence booster and made me feel secure inside. 

This brings me to one of the core pieces of the H.A.P.P.Y. plan, “Playful Parenting”.  I think most parents naturally play fun games with their kids but this is a subject worth revisiting because we live in a crazy busy, high-stress world with computer games, movies-on-demand, Ipods, Ipads, etc.  and the child who may be struggling with a family related crisis could definitely benefit from a dose of play-time with mom or dad.

Over the weekend I attended a friends baby shower and the group was asked to individually fill out a card with a bit of parenting advice for the new mother.  I spontaneously wrote down an idea for a really fun kitchen game that I used when my daughter was  between the ages of 3-6.   I would spread a large piece of wax paper on my kitchen counter and pour prepared chocolate pudding on the wax paper.  We would then begin drawing the most wonderful pudding art in the world that was spectacular if I do say so myself.  The best part was licking the pudding off our fingers while we were painting!  I was kind of proud of myself for remembering this idea, after all, it’s been quite a few years since my daughter and I spent the afternoon making pudding art.  What I remember most, however, is how much fun we had.  As she became older our playtime changed; there were Barbie’s, American Girls, bike riding, roller blading and now it’s “family game night” or “girls night out” (which is a great excuse for getting dressed up for dinner and a movie).  

Spending time with your child regardless of age, creates security and stability and eventually shows up in their self-confidence and self-esteem.   And as it turns out, it’s not only good for your kids, it’s good for you too.  If you’re in the midst of a family crisis, whether its divorce, financial problems or some other issue, you can bet your child is feeling the stress of the situation.  So dig deep, find your inner child and become a playful parent today…relax, enjoy and give them the most valuable gift you can give – your time.

Be Careful, Contents are Fragile

After a conversation with a friend of mine this week,  I was reminded of how fragile a child can become when managing emotions and life while their parents go through a divorce.  This was one of the subjects that prompted me to even begin working on H.A.P.P.Y.   I found I had come in contact with many other single mom’s concerned about this same issue and quite frankly, we were all muddling through and hoping we were handling things well.   

Most children enter and exit an extremely fragile state while trying to navigate their emotions during divorce.   So our jobs as mothers becomes even more demanding as we find ourselves the key to helping our children overcome this fragile state and move into a more secure and stable emotional place. 

Now that I’ve revisited this subject, I thought I’d send out a bit of mommy wisdom for those of you that are in the same situation I was in a few short years ago.

If you are a single mom reading this and asking yourself, “is my child still in this fragile state and if so, how do I fix it?”   I’m not a family counselor so my first recommendation is to see one.  I believe in getting a good family counselor that you can see on a regular basis or when you feel everything is becoming too much to bear.  A good counselor will guide you through helpful steps specifically for your family needs.   Secondly, there are a few basic things that you can do at home that I found effective with my daughter as we were trying to adjust to divorce.  

I 100% believe in the power of a positive attitude (Go Zig!)  So #1 is as expected:

1.  Keep a positive attitude or as a very good friend of mine always says…”keep your head high” (which is her German version of stay positive)

I feel this should be repeated because a healthy attitude and positive view on life is good medicine.  I don’t want to oversimplify the situation and I don’t expect anyone to glide like a ballerina around the house singing “Zippidy Doo Da” ; however, it’s like baking a cake, if you use quality ingredients and follow the recipe to the best of your ability, you will have created a beautiful cake that is ready for the frosting.  Your child (the cake) will be ready for life (the frosting).

2.  HUG ME time…refer to my earlier post on this subject.

3.  Turn off TV, phones and computer and have dinner together.  Talk, laugh, tell jokes, whatever it takes to focus on them for at least 30 minutes.  And don’t talk to much, let them do most of the talking; listen as much as possible.  Listening to your children tell stories and showing interest in what is important to them will light up their little brains and their hearts.

4.  Go to Church, Synagogue, Mass, Temple, etc.  Take them to a place of serenity, respect and quiet even if it’s just a few times a month.  This is not only a benefit to them, but to you as well.  There’s just something so peaceful, enriching and calming about spending a few moments listening to spiritual instruction and participating in spiritual reverence.  It rejuvenates the soul.

5.  Don’t tear down your Ex in front of your kids. 

Our little guys and gals can only handle so much, so if you fight with your ex or display your anger in front of your children on a regular basis and say things that tear him down, your child will potentially do one of two things; retreat or rebel.  Both are equally serious.   If your situation is dire, go see a family counselor and vent to them, not your children.  I’ve witnessed the damage of a newly single mom who cannot seem to wrap her arms around her situation.  My heart hurts for her because I’ve experienced the same feelings and I understand the frustration but at some point we have to pick ourselves up and move forward for the beautiful little people in our lives.  It’s ultimately our responsibility to be sure their hearts and their minds are healthy and maturing at a normal pace.

One last recommendation is a book that I’ve found to be extremely insightful and helped me to understand my daughters emotional behaviour and needs.  I recommend reading The Five Love Languages of Children and/or the Love Languages of a Teenager by Gary Chapman.  I’ve recommended this book before because it gave me important insight and ultimately helped me as I parented my daughter through divorce.

Keep in mind all situations are different, some more serious than others; however, these five simple steps worked for me and my daughter.  None of us need to reinvent the wheel, so try them on for size and see how they fit.  You may find your home a happier place and your children loving life just a bit more.