July is Sense of Joy Month! It’s the month my family focuses on the importance of living a happy life, by being a joyful person and by bringing joy to others. I’d like to share an excerpt from my book about happiness:
When my son was two-and-a-half-years old, he taught me a lesson about joy I will never forget. It was an absolutely beautiful autumn morning and the two of us set off to pick out a pumpkin at a local garden center. There were so many things there to grab the attention of a curious toddler—scarecrows, bales of hay, corn stalks, and of course, rows and rows of pumpkins. But the thing that caught Connor’s eye was a large water fountain in the center of it all. He was watching as another little boy and his dad tossed a few coins into the water. He asked me why they were throwing their money away.
“They’re making wishes,” I explained. “Each time they throw in a coin, they make a wish.”
My son was fascinated. “Do you have any coins, mommy?” he asked, looking hopeful.
I looked in my coin purse and I had several pennies, so I grabbed a handful of them and handed one to Connor. I explained to him that each penny could grant him a wish. He couldn’t wait to get started. He was moving back and forth from one foot to the other like toddlers do when they’re about to burst with excitement. So I quickly showed him how to stand with his back to the fountain so he could make his wish and then throw the penny over his shoulder into the water. He looked down at the penny in his hand, made his wish and then carefully tossed the coin over his shoulder, delighted when he heard a small splash as it hit the water. He was jumping and squealing with pure joy. Then I handed him another penny and the whole scene played out again. One by one as he took each coin, it was just as magical for him as it was with the first one. I figured he was excited about all those wishes coming true so I asked him what he had wished for. I didn’t expect the answer he gave.
“More pennies!” He said.
Right away, tears sprang to my eyes. It hadn’t been about the wishes for him. Not at all. It was all about the experience. There was joy, right there in front of both of us. But he was the only one who knew it. He was the only one who was truly living the joy in that moment. He was inside the joy, surrounded by it, jumping up and down with it for goodness sake. And there I was, observing it from the outside. I cry now when I think of that moment. Not because I’m sad, but because I’m so grateful for the lesson my son taught me that day. So often joy is right there, but we miss it.
Maybe you can relate to this moment I had with my son. We learn so much from our kids! I imagine that you too are very busy, and sometimes overwhelmed with the demands of daily life. I know how it is. But I encourage you to make joy a priority in your life, not only for yourself, but also to show your children that living a happy life is something each of us deserve.
I know these aren’t necessarily the happiest of times. Many of us are struggling these days. And I realize there are times when we go through very painful periods in our lives, when even the idea of happiness is impossible to consider. But in the ups and downs of our everyday lives, if we let our circumstances completely dictate our level of happiness, then we are surrendering our own power. I believe we have the power to find happiness in many of life’s challenges especially if we learn from the wisdom of our children. Kids are often much more “in the moment” than we are, and being in the moment has its rewards.
For instance, if you are playing a board game with your child, try to let go of your worries about whatever happened at work that day and be with your child. Really be there. And let yourself have fun! You need the break and your child wants to see you having fun, especially if they are part of it. Make a conscious effort to initiate simple, yet enjoyable activities with your children every day. They don’t have to be huge to be joyful, and they don’t have to cost anything.
Here are a few ideas for easy and fun activities with your kids. Try one every day this week!
- Bake something delicious together and don’t sweat the mess!
- Go bike riding for a simple picnic in the park as a family.
- Turn on upbeat music and dance together.
- Challenge your kids to a tickle contest!
- Go outside and play hopscotch. Or stay inside and play checkers. The most important thing is to play with your children!
- Run in the sprinklers with your kids! Bring towels!
- Go bowling, swimming, or skateboarding together. In other words, choose a physical activity and do it with your kids.
One of the most important things I have learned about being a joyful mom is not to stand on the sidelines and watch my kids having fun. Participate! Play with them! Even if you look completely goofy. Especially if you look completely goofy. It’s summer. Be happy and have fun. You deserve it!
Written by Mary O’Donohue