So there I was bouncing in the driving seat, rocking out to one of my all-time favorite songs. I didn’t wait to exit the school parking lot, so I am sure some fellow parents were thinking that I must be having a seizure in my minivan. Nope. No seizure. Just channeling some happy memories from my younger days. Letting the music fill me up with its beat. Pushing the burdens of my day into the background so that for a moment I could just do a little car dance and smile.
The next song was a good one too, and the next one. I think I danced all the whole way home, driving alongside other drivers who were not dancing. Pretty sure they weren’t smiling either. And then I got to thinking about how I don’t see a lot of smiling these days, let alone happy dancing.
As a writer and a study of people, I do a lot of watching and comparing generations, locations and habits. I remembered a friend who was born in the 80s tell me that from what he knew, the last time anyone really had fun was in the 80s. That the music was fun, the clothing was fun and that life was just more fun. For me, I just thought it was because I was young in the 80s, but maybe there is something to that.
When was the last time we had fun as a nation? I mean, really, America. Has anyone been having fun in the last 20 years? It’s been 35 years since we were commanded by the prince to “party like it’s 1999” and it’s been 18 years since 1999. Maybe we partied in 1999, but a whole lot of folks were scared about 2000 and the coming computer apocalypse. I’m not sure we ever recovered trust. Then in 2001, we lost the twin towers and America changed. In 2007, the real estate bubble collapsed and the resulting recession devastated millions. Not only the did the real estate bubble burst, but many people’s lives burst apart as they lost homes, careers and retirement accounts. Since then, it’s been a slow, painful uphill crawl for many Americans and many have found it hard to smile and be happy for about a decade.
Also in 2007, two other monumental things happened in our culture. Facebook was expanding exponentially, kicking off the social media phenomenon, and the first iPhone was released. What excellent timing for people to retreat from their fellow man. What an excellent opportunity to create fake lives to hide our real lives, and to automate to the point that we don’t have to talk to anymore with actual words anymore. K?
Fast forward to the start of 2017. We had a divisive 2016 and saw the culmination of a rising resentment that climaxed before our eyes. This didn’t just happen. It evolved due to extremely complicated social, economic and political factors. It’s there and we’re allowing it to rob our happiness and ability to smile and be kind to one another.
So why does all of this matter in a post that’s about parenting and happiness?
Because life happens, that’s why. We are riding the pendulum that swings through time, moving from one side to the other, and has since the beginning of time. Our situations may not be what we want. We may not be the generation that had it better than another. We may not have the school, family, friends, job, car, house or body of our dreams. But we have today and we control how we shape that day by our ability to overcome the situations and find joy on our journeys.
We have ONE chance to raise our kids. One window of time. One very fleeting season of 6,570 days. Only one time our kids will be in our homes, under our wings and watching all that we do. We owe it to them to scrape, claw and dig deep to find any and all ways to bring happiness into our homes. Their little hearts come by it naturally. That’s why we delight in the laughter of a toddler and the silly questions of a preschooler. But as parents, we set the tone in our homes and for their days. How we send them off to school matters. Are we yelling and scowling, or are we singing Pharrell’s “Happy” in the car with our kids? (Personally, our favorite is the Jock Jams CD. You can’t help but laugh when exclaiming, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” with your 5th grader who studied for a test the night before.)
Life takes it toll, so we need to be intentional and purposeful, when it comes to seeking joy and happiness in our own lives. Make it a mandatory part of your day to fill your heart with things that make you happy, even if you have to stop and think about what that is because it’s been a while. Seek out the songs that move your body move and dance. Grab an old movie that makes you laugh. Stream comedy albums for free from Amazon music if you are a Prime member. (Seriously! Bring some comedy into your day!) Beam your light to others by just smiling at them and saying “good morning” or “good afternoon.” You will really be surprised how good that feels even if no one smiles back. Play games with your kids. Board games. Outdoor games. Word games. Whatever! Just PLAY with them and laugh together. It is those moments that will endure and be remembered when you are gone.
Because the pendulum of life will continue to swing one way and then the other. Your time on the path is finite. The impression you leave on your children is your legacy. Smile and they will smile with you. Laugh and they will laugh. Love and they will love.
Wishing you a GOOD today, and beyond.