7 Tips for a Joy-filled Parenting
Startled, I woke up from a deep sleep. I groaned. I still wanted to sleep, so I ignored the cheery voice, which was too cheery for a Saturday morning. Why can't I get an extra hour of sleep today like everyone does before my day starts and ends again at 12:00 midnight?
The childish voice came again, "Good morning, Mom! Wake up!" So I replied, "Mama is still sleepy. Please lie down again," trying to sound as sleepy as I could.
"Mama, wake up," the 'little dawn' shines, more insistently this time. So I rolled out of bed, head pounding and scooped my little toddler out of her crib (still didn't get to moving her to a toddler bed, no budget yet) and towards her potty. She held her arms wide open, ready to hug me tight, with a huge, bright smile on her face. I couldn't help but smile back and whisper, "Good morning, Roxy," as her little arms embraced the whole of my heart.
My day has officially began.
Being a parent asks from us long hours and tremendous amount of energy. No wonder, many people dread the responsibility of becoming a parent, and when they do, lose the enthusiasm and the good intentions along the way after an uncountable number of diaper-changing and feeding duties. Then when the little bundles of joy grow up, they start to have ideas of their own and most parents' patience grow so thin that a mere drop of the spoon from the table during mealtimes become a reason to start WWIII. And we wonder: Where have all the joy gone?
So here are seven simple tips to keep that joy alive even as the long hours go on and on and the energy ebbs and flows.
1. Take a break, Stay connected. I usually zoom around the house trying to get things done, while my toddler plays by herself or her older sister, or follow me around whining and making more mess. And as she does, I follow right after her trying to clean up her mess while chores are left undone. That's when I realize that we both need a break. I often fall down on the couch with her in my arms and we start what we love to do both--- play. We play "flying", play "sleep", play "books". It doesn't take long, even just a half of an hour, for us to be happy with each other's company and for me to be glad to be a parent again.
2. Instead of whining, Play. Being a mother of four, chores just pile up to the ceiling, with me trying to catch up with them. But I never do. And I often find myself whining about it... to anyone who would care to listen. It is regretful because my kids may see chores as something undesirable. Thankfully, they like doing them, even going so far as to bicker for their turn to wash the dishes or help me with tasks like sorting socks or vacuum.
Now I have tried to put on an attitude of play on my chores, adopting children's nature, and enjoying a productive time together.
3. Enjoy simple joys. Sometimes it is tempting to mindlessly let ourselves get twirled around with the world even as it spins. Don't allow it. Get back on track by simply enjoying the company of the little ones, however simple the activity may be. Don't be tempted with high-end kind of entertainment, like kiddie musical/orchestra at the theater or some professional show. A simple picnic or basketball game at the backyard is one of the best memories children usually carry with them.
Be spontaneous. When it's raining, go out there with umbrellas, which kids really dig for, and simply walk around, singing and splashing puddles. When it's snowy, enjoy the snow, roll around on its softness and delight in its wonder. If it's sunny, take a walk, find a patch of green grass and walk or run barefoot on it. My kids and I often find many joyful moments with activities that just crop out of nowhere, from homemade concerts or play to gallery shows and "book" making. The secret is to relax and enjoy the company.
As one author puts it, "The little ones should be educated in childlike simplicity... The more quiet and simple the life of the child—the more free from artificial excitement and the more in harmony with nature—the more favorable it is to physical and mental vigor and to spiritual strength" (Education, 107). And from the same author, "Parents should by their example encourage the formation of habits of simplicity, and draw their children away from an artificial to a natural life" (The Signs of the Times, October 2, 1884).
4. Dream together. So often, adults find children to be too young to share dreams with but I have found them to be very good cheerleaders. Some parents gave up their dreams after having their children, which may not be right, especially if the children are blamed. I believe that to keep dreaming with the children involved will bind the relationship stronger, helping each member of the family to contribute to the success of each one.
I have shared my dreams with my children, and so have they. I am happy to mentor them and guide them even as they encourage me with mine. When we talk about our dreams and work hard for them together, it keeps the joy in the work and inspires us to do better.
5. Laugh. Humor relieves stress. Silliness won't rob you of any respect. When you are running late, traffic is bad, and everyone's hair is standing up in attention because of the tension, find some ways to lighten up the mood. I usually sing. Children likes to join in. The moment becomes a winner. Then there's the time when nothing is working out, so we work out (like zumba or something), and do it as silly as we can be.
6. Pray together. Children's prayers are wonderful. They may not be as wordy as adults, but they are the closest to sincere. Children pray about everything that concerns them. Even my two-year old prays about her brother, Misha, for him to take a shower. Haha. Well, that's what we figured out from the long prayers she says every morning and night. Every time we call on God, we feel a joy that starts up and ends our day, thankful for what we have been blessed with.
Praying with our children keeps our minds on the awesome task of parenting, directing our thoughts on the gifts that they are and our behavior on the joy of our tasks.
7. Worship. Worship adds richness to our daily routine and rituals. I often remind the kids that "every wonderful gift comes from God" (James 1:17). One day, one of them asked me why the sky is so beautiful during sunset. I told them that God is saying "I love you". And yes, in nature, despite being marred by sin, we can see the manifestation of God's great love for us. So I was delightfully surprised when I heard my Angelika exclaim, while the family was on one of our nature trips, "Wow! God is saying "I love you" to me! I love you too, God!" She shouted the last one for everyone to hear. That just made my day.
Our every act is an act of worship to our Creator. "Therefore... whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and a life filled with it has its source from God alone. And this, may be the most important tip of all. Get a daily filling, not just the feeling, and you're ready to go.
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