Today I asked my son what he wanted for dinner. He happily exclaimed, “chicken nuggets!” which was what I was hoping for. “And tater tots!” my daughter added – done and done. I preheated the oven and started making myself a salad as my daughter told me I’m the best cook ever (ha!). Take that Chef Ramsey 😉 my four year old (very soon to be five) thinks my ability to put chicken nuggets and tots on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 18 minutes is better than any Michelin start restaurant out there. Last week I impressed her with my Birds Eye Voila! Garlic Chicken dinner, which she said was so good that she wanted it for breakfast the next day. Sooo… I’m kind of a big deal to my daughters picky palate.
Today something happened that nudged me to focus on the positive. To show up for the people who really matter to me. To be present for the people that don’t see my flaws as glaringly as I do. As I was in the midst of a particularly negative conversation my daughter asked Alexa to play “baby shark” while her brother ran from one end of the house to other and the baby played with a set of Mr. Potato Head glasses. I watched her do the hand motions from the edge of my phone when I decided my attention was in the wrong place. I was wasting energy on something negative, giving feeling and emotion to something that wasn’t worth it. So I set my phone down. And I danced. I did each hand motion with my daughter while I jumped around to the sounds of “baby shark” and the most wonderful laughs my heart has ever heard. My son stopped running, came and asked for me to hold him, while we danced around the kitchen giggling.
Soon the song ended and Alexa chimed to remind us the food was done. My kids rushed to their spots at the table, the baby waited eagerly to be placed in his chair, and I counted out tater tots and cut up chicken nuggets. I sprinkled sunflower seeds on my salad and we all prayed together over our meal as my son squeezed his eyes shut as tight as he could muster. After we finished dinner my daughter asked if she could have her ice cream. I said yes. I knew there was only a scoop left in the container as she went to retrieve it from the freezer. “Mama, can I have the rest? There’s only a tiny bit left.” As she asked I could tell she was ready to argue for that ice cream. If I had responded with anything but yes she was going to tell me why it made sense to give her all the ice cream. I told her she could have it all. Then I told her she could eat it right out of the carton. Her eyes grew wide as she ran for a spoon. “Whoa!” she cried out along the way. “This is the best day ever!”
Later on when her little brother asked to call Daddy after he fell running over to the couch, she couldn’t wait to tell Daddy that she got to eat ice cream right out of the carton. Isn’t that part of the joy of life? The joy that maybe we’ve forgotten?
My daughter often tells us she wishes he was a grown up. That she could have snacks when she wanted, eat ice cream whenever, and tell her brother to go to bed early. I beg for her to understand how much fun it is to be a kid, and one day she’ll wish she didn’t have to be a grown up. That being a grown up has many benefits and rewards, but the simplicity of childhood goes unappreciated, until it’s too late. I don’t get the same joy out of things that she does, in large part to the energy she zaps from me and the aches I’ve gained over the years. Let’s rewind a little bit. Let’s find a piece of our childhood joy. My son gets excited whenever he sees hay bales, police cars, and garbage trucks. My daughter finds joy in getting five minutes with mommy after her brother has fallen asleep, making silly videos to send to friends and family, and eating ice cream right from the carton.
You aren’t too busy to feel joy. You can take the extra minute that your kids are begging for. You can read one more book or give them five minutes of your attention even if something else is begging for it. Be present. Stop spending your energy on things that don’t matter. Dance with your kids. And skip the bowl, eat ice cream right from the carton.