gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

Moments of Joy

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One of my new year’s aims (I don’t like doing traditional resolutions, although this one is a bit resolution-y in nature) is to enjoy my children more and shout at them less. Concurrently with this, I’d been really enjoying a challenge one of my old school friends was doing and documenting on Facebook – she tried to do something new and life affirming every day.

So I set myself a challenge – to document a “Moment of Joy” experienced by my children every day for the whole of January. It did not have to be moments of overwhelming or unusual joy, but it did have to be real, and it had to have happened that day. It was not good enough for me to use an old photo of a similar incident – I had to use a photo from that day.

After a few days, I was pretty sure that I had already learnt the lesson of my project – that joy does not happen on demand, and that the camera will seldom be on hand when real, heart-breaking joy occurs. It’s a pretty profound insight and I was tempted to stop, or at least to facebook it so that everyone would know how quick a mind I have. Luckily I neither gave up the challenge, nor announced my findings. . . because, at its heart, it was wrong.20140105_113347

It is certainly true that many joyful moments happen when no camera is on hand, or are over so quickly that you have no time to yell “cheese”. (I took many pictures of blurred bits of children as testament to this.) BUT – and this is the important part – the REAL lesson is that joy DOES happen on demand, and as parents, we are one of the agents of joy in our children’s lives. Under the pressure of the task that I set myself, and the vanity of wanting to be perceived as a good mother by my friends, I forced some joy into every single day of my children’s lives this January.
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There were days when it was really, really hard – and on the worst of those I shared the challenge with facebook – and there were days when it was easy, like the day we went to the zoo. Sometimes I had to do very little to elicit the joy, and some days I had to jump through hoops as two little people looked on, with resolute little frowns on their faces.

But the lesson is simple, and it’s one I hope that you will hear: our littles are dependent on us for so many things, and while we are not their only source of joy or pain, we are the only source that we can control. And once you realise that, you realise that you can raise an adult who looks back on a childhood that had at least a little bit of joy in every day.
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Some asides:
A thank you to my facebook friends who followed the project, and a reassurance that Megan does in fact have more than 3 outfits, she just won’t wear them.
For me facebook is a personal platform, unlike Twitter or this blog, so please don’t send me friend requests if we aren’t real life friends, because I will not accept which will be no reflection on you, or how lovely you may be.
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