When I think about the things that made me happy as a child, it was usually simple stuff like the ice cream truck, playing jump rope with my friends or drinking Kool-Aid. Have you noticed how it seems to take so much more to make you happy the older you get? I’ve had to really ask myself why that was as I went through some changes in my life that caused me to re-think my definition of happiness. And once I did, I realized that my own unhappiness was usually caused by making things more complicated than they needed to be.
It wasn’t long ago that God started using my daughter to teach me that true happiness came from simplifying my life, and having a consistent attitude of gratitude. In this world of increasing complexity, rapid technological advances and never-ending to-do lists, we seem to have lost sight of the little things—which often turn out to be the most important. Watching my daughter grow up into a young lady, I’ve learned to observe her and always look for the lesson in the moment. And as I’ve paid more attention, I’ve noticed:
She keeps it moving. I’ve always marveled at how strong children really are—physically and mentally. I don’t think we give them enough credit. With my daughter, I’ve noticed that when things don’t work out her way, she moves on quickly to the next thing. I think the longest I’ve ever seen her be upset about something was 15 minutes. And then it was like it never happened. Anytime I’ve come to a point in my life where things aren’t working out the way I had hoped, I now think of baby girl and realize that I have a choice as to whether or not I allow the disappointment to keep me stuck—or keep me moving.
She gives a smile to everyone she sees—and laughs like crazy every day. My child wakes up smiling. If there’s one thing you can count on her for, it’s a smile that lights up everything around her. That’s how she gets whatever she wants (from everyone else, that is). Although that smile doesn’t have quite the same effect on me now that I’m used to it, I recognize that it has played a major part in her well-being. That positive attitude carries into everything she does. And it doesn’t take much for that smile to turn into an uncontrollable laugh. Given that she rarely gets sick, I guess laughter really is the best medicine.
She doesn’t hold grudges. This is probably one of the most important lessons we could all learn from our children. One minute, they’re fighting over a silly toy and the next, they’re playing ball together. Granted, the issues become more complicated than fighting over a toy as we grow up, but the idea of letting go of a grudge in order to gain some peace of mind is still just as important to maintaining our own happiness.
She loves unconditionally. How often do we give our children the message that unless they do things our way, we’ll withhold our love? We may not say it verbally, but our actions inherently communicate just that. If they don’t make their bed exactly as we’ve taught them, or get an A on their test, or even test our absolute last nerve, their value in our eyes will change. And yet, those same children love us regardless of all of our own faults as parents. Unconditional love—as proven by my daughter—is simple, it’s just not always easy. Practiced regularly with those that matter the most, it will be one of the most important things we ever do to really be happy.
BMWK, What life lessons have you learned by observing your own children?