Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Secret of Life (or how to be truly happy...)

I know what you are thinking, "Whoa! Are you sure you want to go there in the first week of January?! Slow down! Pace yourself..."

It's just that this has been a frequent topic of conversation between me and my son the last few days, and it's made me do a lot of thinking.  The whole idea started a couple of days ago when I made a firm stand and told Jake that he would be cleaning the toy room (to my standard*) before the night was through.  It is never a fun job, and add to it the fact that we have all the new toys from Christmas that haven't quite settled into their new home, well I guess he felt it was overwhelming.

*As a side note I would like to say that the whole "to my standard" level of clean is of course taking his age and skill level into account.  I never ask my children to do something I know they won't be able to be successful at, but I also think it's important to stretch their abilities whenever possible.

After three or four "breaks" where he would come and complain to me about how tired he was or how he had hurt his leg at recess, he finally came upstairs visibly upset and trying to not cry.  I asked him what was wrong already having a pretty good idea that he was feeling unfairly put upon because his sisters weren't downstairs cleaning with him.  (Another side note, Jake often prefers to work alone rather than have one of the girls helping him, which most often equates to them coming along behind you and undoing everything you've just done...)  I was right. Jake was really upset that he had to clean up the whole toy room when, as he said, "I hardly made any of the mess and the girls did ALL of it!"

I was actually glad to hear him say that. Let me explain. Jake is such a tender heart and it is very hard for him to verbalize when something is upsetting him, because he wants to avoid conflict at all costs. (A trait that he gets from his father, trust me... if I get upset you will for sure know it and know why.)  It took some carefully leading questions on my part to get him to open up and let those upset feelings have a voice.  But it was good because I could then acknowledge and validate that it wasn't fair and yes, it did indeed suck, that he had to clean up a mess he didn't make. (And I don't have to tell you moms out there how hard I bit my tongue to keep from pointing out the irony of any child making that complaint...)

And then we got to the secret of true happiness.  I told him that even though it wasn't fair... at all... even a little bit... he still had to clean the toy room.  And that really he had two choices, to stay mad and angry at the unfairness of it all, or to choose to be happy and think about how he was performing a great act of love and service to me.  I also told him that if he remembered anything about this conversation I wanted it to be this: The ONLY thing you have any control over in this life is how you react to the world around you. You can't control the world, or the weather, or other people, or even what emotions you'll feel. But you can choose how you will respond to them in any given situation.  And I believe that true happiness comes when you let go of having an expectation of control and just enjoy the journey.

I know. I'm deep like that.


Sandra & Brent said...

Indeed you are . . . now, how about you take that story, illustrate it and put it on the children's book market? Masterfully done, Chrissy . . . really. And I loved browsing through your last few posts tonight. Great photos, great thoughts, great family. Love you. Sandra

Emilie said...

That's perfect. I loved every bit of that.

April Weeks said...

Hard but true lesson to learn. I'm still trying to make it stick and I'm 52 years old.

Bianca said...

Well I think that I may have needed that pep-talk more than Jake. :D Thank you!

Sarah said...

You are a GREAT mom. Can I be like you someday?