You know how you get used to thinking about your child in a certain way? For instance I’d learned to think of my older boy as shy, tentative, uptight and a bit of a worrier with a heavy leaning to seeing the glass half empty.
There were times it really got to me.
I’d noticed that he had begun to ease over the last couple of years and I took it as a very reassuring reflection that I was doing the same – but I hadn’t realised just how much it has changed.
Then my friend said, “I really appreciate how your son is so quick to laugh. You can always count on him to laugh at the funny bits of a story.” Really? My boy?
So I watched him through the perspective she had just offered me and do you know what? I saw a boy who is really at ease with himself, confident and comfortable and almost looking for reasons to enjoy himself and laugh. (Oh I am loving this mirror!) In fact when his friends do things to make him laugh he relaxes into the laughter with his whole self and is eagerly ready for more almost anytime. It’s beautiful to witness.
So I got a-thinking about the process that I’ve been through over the last two years, where my book and this blog have led me to open up and ease into myself in a way I never even knew was possible. I thought of how my message to my children has shifted too over this time. Less concern over ‘getting it right’ and how things ‘should be’ and more messages of permission to be great, opening into good things, allowing self, celebrating all that is…
In all of it, there is one simple thing that I think really helped us make the shift. It’s the question, “What made you happy today?”
At one point I became really frustrated with my son’s constant focus on what he hasn’t got. I wondered how I can teach him (and me of course) more gratitude and appreciation. So I started with this ritual.
At bedtime, in the snuggle time just before sleep, I ask each child quietly, “Tell me, what made you happy today?”
When I started it, my little one easily launched into it using all the here and now things that the great spiritual texts and teachers always suggest. “Right now!” He would happily declare. “Going to sleep. Hugging you.” Soon it shifted to “Everything! The whole day and the whole night!” – expressed with meaning and gusto I might add. This is his natural state – bless him.
My older son though, really struggled at the start. It was such a new concept to him. So used was he, to focusing on the lack and the negative, that he honestly couldn’t think of things to say. The first few nights I had to help him along with suggestions. I had to remind him of lovely things that had happened throughout the day. Then he would say, “Oh yes. That was really nice.”
Then he slowly got the hang of it and would think hard for good things about the day. One day it became natural for him. I hadn’t realised its importance to him until one night I said goodnight and was leaving the room and he shouted, “Mama! You didn’t ask what made me happy today!” so I went back and I did.
They started to ask me the same thing in response to my question, “Mama, what made you happy today?” I always focus on something about the child I’m talking to that made me happy – and it makes me remember that it happened and gives me a chance to focus on and feel the happiness fully. So I’ll say something like, “When I came home and you ran to me and hugged me tight, that made me happy. And when we cuddled together and read a story this afternoon, that also made me happy. And right now, being with you makes me happy.” My child then grins happily and we hug each other tight with the joy of it all.
So now I ask them and they ask me and we end the day with a happy sigh. And the outcomes from this simple ritual have been remarkable.
Do you do a version of this in your home? Share it with us? If you decide try it out I’d be keen to hear how it goes.
Pass this on to friends. There are so many good things that happen in our day. Ending off the day thinking of those good moments is a powerful recipe for ease and happiness. Let’s spread the joy in our world.
So, what made you happy today?