Have you ever seen a parent or grandparent celebrate their child’s first step or the first time they went to the potty?
Despite the fact that billions of people who came before took a step and went to the potty, we still celebrate those moments with our own children with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for winning some great award or honor. And we should. We should clap and praise and make them feel like they have done something great. They peed in the potty after all. That IS awesome. No one questions that.
And yet when those same children get a little older, we stop celebrating milestones with them. Worse, we sometimes even stop noticing or encouraging. Children are constantly saying, “watch this” or “look at me.” And they think they are doing amazing things. Amazing things as great as peeing in the potty. And when they are craving our attention and positive feedback, how many of us just give a half-hearted “yeah, great” without even really looking? In our busy lives, we forget the pride and joy of accomplishing simple things that billions of people who came before have already done. We stop celebrating the things that make us human.
There is a game we play often at The Little Gym called “Slam the Cheese.” We stand a “cheese mat” (an incline mat for rolling down) up on its end and the kids just run right in to it and knock it down. That’s the whole game. And kids love it. And you can see the pride and joy in their faces when they stand up from knocking it over. They simply knocked down a mat with the help of momentum and gravity. And they feel like winners. And they should. Like the 2-year-old who peed in the potty.
Did I mention that in this Slam the Cheese game, there are no angry birds, no zombies, no endermen, no bells, no fancy graphics. Just forces of nature, the human spirit, and a rush of adrenaline. That’s all children need to feel joy really.
When a child is smiling like they’ve won the lottery just because they are swinging on the rings by themselves, I remember what real joy looks like. When I turn on the music and the toddlers start dancing on the spot, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling if I wanted to. And don’t even get me started about bubble time!
My hope for us, my friends, is that we too can find these moments of joy, these simple gifts, to experience. And they are everywhere. Children tend to find these moments. They make their own joy. Adults, not so much. We tend to take ourselves, and the world, a bit more seriously. I say no more.
Let’s seize fleeting moments of real joy when we can. Not just do activities we enjoy, or participate in things we think we should, let’s challenge ourselves to find moments where our hearts are pumping and we couldn’t stop smiling if someone paid us to. And Summer is the perfect time to experience these moments. Perhaps try dancing at dusk with fireflies. Or doing a cartwheel on your front lawn. Maybe try to catch frog.
Let’s celebrate with our children and with ourselves the simple gifts we get to experience each day. No matter how many people throughout history have spotted a hummingbird before, it IS still amazing when we do. And even though we now understand the science behind rainbows and sunsets and full moons, we can still marvel in the magic of them.
And if you are having trouble one day finding a moment of joy, blow bubbles.
Bubbles are a special kind of magic. Take it from this one random angel...
(Written August 9th, 2014)