As we sat down to engage in the homework pod of our carefully calculated and orchestrated on the head of a pin schedule yesterday, my son Leo looked up at me and said,
Mom, do you ever sometimes get really, really happy for no reason? Like, I feel so happy right now I don’t know what to do with my happiness.
I looked up from studying the various papers-sent-from-school pile. His face had genuine joy on it.
Yes, actually, I know exactly what you mean, I said. The first thing you do is walk away from that homework, come over here and get a super big hug.
We did that. He pulled back, looked at me and started wiggling his body around.
It’s not like anything in particular happened, he said, I just feel so happy inside. You know it’s kind of like when Patrick (a special needs boy at his school) gets really happy he shakes his arms and scootches his body side-to-side.
And like Floyd (our three year old golden retriever) when we come home, I added.
But what do I do with it all? he asked.
I think Patrick and Floyd have it figured out, I said. I think you dance and move and let the energy have its way.
We did that. I did too, at first to make him comfortable and then, because it’s actually contagious. The happiness started filling my body too. And it was such a relief not to be planning and strategizing our next move. After a few minutes, he wandered back to his homework stool.
I am still so happy. What do I do with it?
You make it your number one priority to hang on to it as long as you can. So, no homework! I think drawing might be a good idea.
He took his pencil… Absolutely not! You need colored pencils, or paints!
I brought him color. He smiled. He drew and drew and drew, until dinner.
Pretending not to, I watched him. I think this is what pure joy looks like. Not connected to things or accomplishments or future plans. Simple, pure, real.
It erupts. It explodes. Like liquid lava ecstasy.
It’s just pure grace that I was able to see it. I could just have just as easily been in busy mode and redirected it with some quasi-supportive, that’s awesome honey, but let’s get our homework done so we can have dinner before piano lessons.
Mostly as parents we focus on what we need to do more or less, how we can improve, where we have to compensate for some serious personal deficits, how we can inspire greater gratitude and practice greater patience. The list is endless. But, every now and then there are moments when you can feel from your soul to your toes that you have done something deeply right.
Interestingly, those moments never seem to be about completing homework on time, practicing piano for twenty minutes or cleaning the kitchen after dinner.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still a big fan and enforcer of routine. It’s how we get it all done. But, this year, I am going to consciously ALSO try to be on the lookout for moments of joy.
A kind of vigilante joy scout.