I often ask parents that I’m working with: “What makes your little one laugh? What makes them happy?”
Usually, this is an easy question to answer. “She thinks its so funny when her dad makes faces at here,” or “He loves it when he hears his mama’s voice.”
Together, we can use this information to find out what’s motivating to children, to help them learn and grow.
And then I ask the follow up question: “What brings you joy about your child?”
This one’s a little harder to answer, but we get there. “I love the way she smiles,” or “I can’t get enough of the way his eyes crinkle in the light.”
After that, I ask:. “What brings you joy?”
That one’s a toughie. Especially from a new parent, or one that just found out their child has a developmental delay. There may not be a ton of moments of joy right now, or they may be being overshadowed by tiredness, or grief, or stress.
But again, we get there. Together, we talk about how important it is to find those moments, to make time for them and really relish them.
Then comes the hard one. The real stumper.
“How do you and your child experience joy and delight together?”
In the 2015 book, “All Joy and No Fun”, author Jennifer Senior writes about how there is such a focus on doing for your kids and on making sure they are learning and happy, that we forget to have fun. We want to make moments of joy and delight, but we don’t enjoy them. They end up being another box ticked in a list of milestones, doctor’s appointments, and playgroups.
And you know what, a lot of times parenting isn’t fun. It’s not full of happiness and rainbows and puppies around the corner.
And that’s fine.
I want you to acknowledge you’re doing a good job. Notice the little things. Share your love and interests with your child because you know what? It's not just about them. It's about learning how to live life together. It's about teaching them how to find joy.
And it's about knowing how to talk about all of our feelings. Senior writes: “Vocabulary for aggravation is large. Vocabulary for transcendence is elusive.”
While I agree that sometimes it's easier to complain than it is to talk about the light in your life, I also think that you cannot have light without dark. And children need to be taught how to feel and talk about all the feelings. Then they can truly sit in and enjoy the joy with you.
Need some help noticing what brings you or your child joy? Not sure how to delight in things together? Reach out and we can make it happen together!