Saying Yes to Joy

When you think about your life, do you see joy? I mean real joy? I’d love to say my life is one moment of joy after another, or even that my life has joy in it. But it hasn’t really had any joy at all over the past few years.

Starting today, that’s going to change!

Digging down to the source of my stress I know where I feel most frustrated and each time those frustrations surface, it’s harder for joy to shine. In an effort to protect myself in some way, I’ve had more and more rules around the house. But more and more rules mean less and less joy. Pretty soon it isn’t even less joy, but more sadness. More anger. More disgust.

As a family, this is where we’ve been. Each of us feels something slightly different, but the one thing in common for all of us, none of us feel joy.

I’ve suddenly discovered my children growing up, they don’t need me as much as they used to. I’m excited and sad all at once. But I’m also a little ashamed.

They’re grown up, but they aren’t growing up feeling strong, proud, confident. And they are not growing up with joy.

A few weeks ago Ella mentioned an experiment she’d like to try. I said, “Sure, as soon as I get a chance.”

Which really means, at some point before you move out I’ll do this. It’s not no, but it certainly isn’t yes either. She’s asked for less and less every day. Joy fades.

Yesterday, her and her friends wanted to make a lemonade stand. I gave them a pile of reasons not to, but really the only reason I had was I didn’t want to. Luckily their friend’s mom was available and set up the table for them and bought the supplies and let them get to work. It was a huge success! All of them came bouncing in so proud of themselves. Their faces shone with pride…and joy. Joy I could have had a hand in. Instead I stood in the way.

Today, Ella, again, mentioned the experiment she wanted to do. I started to say no, but quickly stopped myself. I said yes, and found supplies for her. She did everything on her own. Her experiment didn’t give her the result she expected, so together we figured out why. Tomorrow she’ll try again.

 

I certainly have reasons why I haven’t said yes as much:

  • two and a half years ago I had a new baby; Ella was only 7. Still a bit young to tackle her ideas on her own.
  • Then I had cancer and my energy to clean up after any ideas was pretty much non-existent.
  • Then I had surgery and recovery, immediately followed by shut-down when I solo parented all 4 kiddos. I needed order or I’d snap.
  • Then Ryan and I began to argue and fight like we’ve never fought before, and finally figure out the root of our relationship issues. I had nothing to give anyone but me.
  • Then there’s habit. Habit’s were formed over the course of the previous 2.5 years, and aren’t easy to even notice sometimes.

But I notice the habits now. I am changing them as of this afternoon. When my children come to me with an idea, I want to respond with love and joy! Really the only way I can do that is to say yes, and act upon that yes immediately. Luckily our children are still young. I see the stress of the previous few years melting away a bit more each day. I’m sure I’ll see them experiment and explore more as we say, and mean, yes more each day.

Tomorrow’s first taste of new freedoms for Ella starts with breakfast. She often wakes up a couple hours before me, but doesn’t enjoy cold cereal. Tonight I told her she has permission to cook (stovetop only, no oven) her own breakfast before I get up. I know she’s capable of it, I just have’t stepped out of my comfort zone until today. Really, she could use the oven as well, but I’m not comfortable with her younger siblings respecting the oven without me there.

Tomorrow she’s also making her own gummy candies so she can try her experiment again.

Last week Brom’s shown skills I didn’t know he had. He began actually building things with his lego duplo bricks. Up until this point, he’d tell us to build things, and he’d watch, then destroy it. A lot of building happened, but he wasn’t the one doing it. About a week ago, we sat down in the living room and he clicked bricks together, building them higher and higher, wider and wider. Today he strung beads and decided to use a scooter for the first time. A two wheeled scooter!

I’ve been really treating him as a baby still, but he’s far from baby any more. I need to say yes to him more, when he asks to join me in a task, I need to say yes. I used to say yes to his sisters. It’s time I say yes to him too!

Over the past couple years I’ve focused on the amount of supervision and cleaning necessary for any activity. Anything that looked like it might mean more than two minutes of cleaning often meant I’d say no. But as I see such a huge shift in my children this week, they need to see a huge shift in me as well!

From now on I will respond to my children with joy and love. I want to say ‘Yes’ to them! Saying yes to them and their ideas will mean so much more to them than just permission. It’s a vote of confidence. It’s love. Saying yes to them will increase their sense of self and their sense of joy. Saying yes to them will be saying yes to joy. Not just their joy, mine as well.

 

Saying yes to them is also saying yes to me.

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