Parenting. You know the moments when:
You make the successful transfer of a sleeping baby from your arms to the crib.
When the black marker scribbles all over the couch AREN’T Sharpie.
When the poo’s firm enough to plop in the toilet and do a one wipe jobber.
When the looser variety remains beneath the diaper’s wasteband.
When your two year old approves of the outfit you’ve chosen for her.
When your healthy impulse to rise from your chair is perfectly concurrent with the absence of children from your lap.
When you have the blessed realization that the sock you found under the car seat matches the one that’s been sitting on the dryer for three months.
When the stray napkin you found on the floor of the minivan has enough wear left in it to catch the latest sneeze bomb.
When there are enough sippy cups WITH LIDS for everyone to have one for the car ride.
When you have the presence of mind to do something else while your two year old buckles her top car seat buckle all by herself, instead of watching, trembling, with a clenched jaw, willing her to let you do it faster.
(Same thing when she’s putting on her shoes by herself).
When everyone is buckled into their seats before the scheduled departure time.
When you find the “Gobble Til You Wobble” PJs Grandma gave you and get them on your kid on Thanksgiving (I didn’t manage it. I missed my window. Now there they are, haunting me for robbing them of their ordained purpose.).
When your little kids eat the broccoli.
When you’d rather gaze at your nursing infant than do anything on your phone.
When your hand held vacuum can manage what’s under the couch cushions.
When there is toilet paper on the roll.
When the puke hits the toilet.
When the leftover casserole fits perfectly into a container and (plot twist!) THE CONTAINER HAS A LID.
When you have ten minutes of quiet not involving the defacement of any household surfaces.
When the toddler who finds you captivating enough to sit on your lap as you use the toilet is astute enough to retrieve another toilet paper roll from the cupboard.
When the, ahem, bedtime story you’re reading together, makes cuddle time a time of wonder and enlightenment (End of author plug).
When the two year old understands that the zipper on a coat must be started by an adult.
When you not only accurately identify the next important task, but get it started before a child asks to be held. Or for a snack.
When your 2 and 4 year olds learn how to love on the baby without inflicting injury or tears.
When you’re overpowered by the effort of exercising so much initiative and so much restraint, and overwhelmed by so exceedingly many variables in your life being just out of your grasp, that the tears come, and your two year old climbs up next to you and puts her head on your shoulder and twirls your hair while you cry.
These “wins” are precious, not because they make life easier, though that is appreciated, but because they remind us that the “powers that be,” are pulling for us not only to make it through this, but to have joy in its midst. Someone out there wants we parents to keep on breathing and keep on trucking, and keep squeezing our munchkins til there’s no doubt in their minds that they belong.
Arguably, though, these wins could be considered so minor that you wouldn’t recognize them unless you’re actively looking. Right?
Exactly. And in that tiny crevice in your consciousness lies the choice.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has told us “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
To me that means that we have the option to adopt an attitude of happiness, even if the feelings are slightly delayed.
Science suggests that Thich Nhat Hanh is right.
From “The Naked Face” by Malcolm Gladwell (full article here):
Scientists published a study of this effect. They monitored the bodily indices of anger, sadness, and fear–heart rate and body temperature–in two groups. The first group was instructed to remember and relive a particularly stressful experience. The other was told to simply produce a series of facial movements, as instructed by Ekman– to “assume the position,” as they say in acting class. The second group, the people who were pretending, showed the same physiological responses as the first. A few years later, a German team of psychologists published a similar study. They had a group of subjects look at cartoons, either while holding a pen between their lips–an action that made it impossible to contract either of the two major smiling muscles, the risorius and the zygomatic major– or while holding a pen clenched between their teeth, which had the opposite effect and forced them to smile. The people with the pen between their teeth found the cartoons much funnier. Emotion doesn’t just go from the inside out. It goes from the outside in. What’s more, neither the subjects “assuming the position” nor the people with pens in their teeth knew they were making expressions of emotion. In the facial-feedback system, an expression you do not even know that you have can create an emotion you did not choose to feel.
Choosing to smile can bring on the emotions associated with smiles, and, I believe, will help us to better notice the happy circumstances or “wins” continually happening around us, causing our joy to snowball.
So, moms and dads, keep smiling, keep “winning,” and keep taking one for the team. You’re going to knock this out of the park.