This month in my happiness project I wanted to give myself an attitude adjustment. I wanted to pause to enjoy the moment, and I wanted to work on my bad habit of complaining too much. I was fairly successful in my first goal but less so in my second.
It helped that I set myself up to succeed in my first goal. Taking a mid-winter holiday to Spain is a fairly easy way to find more happiness and relish in beautiful moments. It’s so easy to say, if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is, when you’re sipping a glass of wine overlooking the beach, or watching your children run across the sand, laughing. But there were less obvious moments, too, of watching the kids use their imaginations to build great trains out of pillows while I rested on the couch, or sitting in a cafe watching them dip churros into thick chocolate, talking about how yummy it was; or even just sitting on a bench, eyes closed, and feeling the warmth of sunlight on my shoulders.
Looking back, I see that most of my if this isn’t nice moments involved the kids, either watching them from a distance or snuggling with them. I also enjoyed a couple small moments on my own, but most of my joy derived from those beatific little beings. (And if I’m being honest, almost all of my frustrated and irate moments involved them, too.) It’s worth noting that a lot of those moments were only possible because I put my phone down.
Coincidentally, I was reading All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior while we were there. While most parenting books are about how to parent a child (ie, the impacts of parents on children), this one is a more sociological look at the impacts of children on parents. I’d heard some buzz about it when it came out and wrongly anticipated that it would be yet another whine about how tough and shitty it is to be a parent. While it made me terribly apprehensive about the teenage years (yikes!), I found it a fascinating read and in fact it helped me to revel more deeply in the joy that is being a mother. Much of that comes down to the delineation between meaning and happiness that I’ve written about before. There are, of course, many more nuances in the book, so I highly recommend reading it.
While our evenings are normally a bit hectic, with our attention being pulled in a dozen directions and the kids alternately playing and arguing, somehow last night we seemed to be all on the same page with the same vibe. I was excited to pick up the kids from preschool, and had a fun time talking with them on the drive home. Rather than checking my email or trying to finish up work tasks after we arrived home, I sat on the floor and played with the kids, and so did James. They were unusually talkative and funny. August went to the neighbors’ to play for a bit, so we sat with Leif while he climbed around and make jokes and clearly enjoyed the singular attention. At dinner, August and I got out an animal encyclopedia and talked about the animals (which only reinforced my feeling that insects are gross). They went to bed more calmly and happily than the previous few evenings. It was an entire evening of if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is, and it was a great way to end my January happiness project.
Now, as for the not complaining… I complained. Maybe less than usual because we were traveling and not stuck in our routines, but still I complained. I seem to have forgotten about that resolution by the middle of the month, which makes me think I should have used a resolution chart to keep me on task. The added accountability and the daily reminder would have been incredibly useful.
I’ll be doing a lot more savoring-the-moment this month, our last month as a family of four, and the last time I’ll be able to give the boys this much attention for a while. (I’m alternately getting more excited about Bing-Bong’s arrival and more weary of the exhaustion and emotional strife that accompany the arrival of a newborn. But more on that later…)
Photo by James Pond.