At times, each of my children challenges me to be more patient and understanding than I ever thought I could be, to release how I think things “should” be, and to open my heart and my mind to his or her point of view. While I might not love it in the moment, with time, I come to realize they are really teaching me a better way to live.
A few months ago, we went through a spell where my son would have a meltdown at least once a day, because something we were or were not doing was ruining his plan for a “super awesome fun day.” The trouble was, no one knew what this plan included, except for my son.
For a while, it felt as though we were stuck in this battle of wills. I tried to logically reason with him and explain how we had to be flexible, how we didn’t always get to do what we wanted to do it exactly when we wanted to, how we could still have a fun day even if it didn’t match his plans.
All of my talking, reasoning, and explaining got me nowhere.
One night at bedtime, I sat with Carter and asked what would make tomorrow a super awesome fun day. I asked him to tell me three things he’d like to include in his day to make it a great day. He chose things like eating his favorite breakfast, playing a game he loves, or visiting the library. The next day, I did my best to make sure everything he asked for was included in his day. I had a happy kid and no meltdowns, so we made it a bit of a nightly routine.
As the days and weeks went on, I nudged him to be a bit more flexible. I would explain why some ideas couldn’t happen the next day and would suggest alternatives. He grew more flexible with his plans and could usually roll with it if days didn’t go according to plan.
I also encouraged him to find the fun things in his days that he hadn’t even planned.
Over time, this became our family routine. In the evening, we talk about the best parts of our day and what we’d like to do tomorrow. I try to honor each child’s interests, while also encouraging them to join together and explore new choices.
While we usually plan a few activities to look forward to each day, I also try to help them see the amazing moments that we never even thought to plan.
I’m hoping our daily practice will help my children learn to live with gratitude and intention.
A few weeks ago, I realized that while I’d been putting so much effort into helping my kids make the most of each day, I hadn’t changed how I was living my days. Some days were good, some days weren’t. I had my overwhelming to-do list each day, but I wasn’t living on purpose or with passion. I was doing what I felt needed to be done, not allowing myself time for fun, because I never completed my list of to-do items.
Gradually, I began to play around with my to-do list. I now begin each week by clearing out my brain. As I still work best with pencil and paper, I divide a piece of paper in half. On one half of the paper, I write a list of everything I need to do or feel I should do in the week to come. On the second half, I write out all the things I’d like to do throughout the week.
Each day, I try to choose two or three things I’d like to do that day and no more than four things I need to do or feel I should do that day.
I’m still not balanced, but I know that making time for joy helps to make each day a bit better.
I choose activities that help me to relax or feel fully alive – walking, reading, writing, creating, gardening, or connecting with friends – and try to weave them in throughout each day. Some days, I might only have ten minutes here or there to enjoy what I want to do, but even small moments can make a big difference. I now look forward to the beginning of each day, finding that those to-do tasks no longer feel so burdensome. I’m also making a commitment to noticing the joy I didn’t think to plan.
I believe our children need mothers who are fully alive.
While I hope I can teach my children to live with gratitude and intention, I know our kids learn the most from the examples we set and how we choose to live.
Today, I invite you to plan your very own super awesome fun day.
How will you choose to come fully alive?
Becky McCleery is an inspired mama, writer and teacher. She spends her days caring for and growing with her three children. Beyond family, she loves connecting with kindred spirits and helping inspired authors share their message and serve more readers, so they can spark a movement that makes a difference.