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Right On Time To Break The Cycle!

At any random moment, my 16-month-old daughter is liable to throw her head back, laugh heartily at the sky, and run forward blindly with arms back and chest out until she collapses to the ground in a fit of laughter.

It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.  And it happens (seemingly) unprovoked.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Lettin’ It Shine” lately, chewing on what I think that phrase actually means.  (Hint:  I DON’T think its application is limited to our positive, “shiny” emotions.)

One thing that is very clear to me from watching my kids is that “Lettin’ It Shine” is not something we need to LEARN.  It’s something we are BORN knowing.  It’s something that we (tragically) UN-LEARN over time.

To put it more confusingly, in order to truly Let It Shine, we need to un-learn our un-learning.  [That's all!]

But how is it that we stop shining in the first place?  And WHY??

***[Cut to scene 2.]***

We’re five minutes late for preschool already and I don’t even have the kids in the car yet.  I’m carrying my son’s bagel with cream cheese and jelly between my teeth while holding my toddler to my hip with one arm, dodging her attempts to grab the bagel by continuously flicking my head to the side, carrying two overflowing bags and two water bottles with the other arm, and attempting to open the car door.

My back is twitching again.

I stayed up later than I should have again last night, so I am (predictably) groggy this morning.  I’m not on my A-game.

I drop the two bags and water bottles on the ground, open the car door, put the bagel on the seat, and while I’m trying to wrestle my daughter into her car seat, I turn to see that my son is sauntering around our front yard with a long stick held to his nose, pretending to be an elephant.  I remind him (for the UMPteenth time) that we are late:   leave the stick here for later and get-in-the-CAR.

I wrestle a little more with wrestler-baby, then glance at my son again.

“MmmmmMMMMMMMMMMPH!!!” he trumpets.  His head is hanging low, his weight sauntering from side to side, his feet plodding slowly…exactly like an elephant.

“LISTEN TO ME,” I say.  I am firm and my voice is low and slow:  my best intimidating mom voice.  ”I am taking that stick and you are getting in the car right now.”

I grab the stick.

“BUT I WANT TO PUT IT IN THE CLOSET,” he yells.  ["Garage," he means.  He's been keeping that stick in there every night since the hurricane.  It's thin, crooked in several places so as to take up maximum garage space (or, maybe, to make it look more like an elephant trunk), and it's at least ten feet long.]

“WE ARE LATE!” I say.  ”THE STICK IS SAFE HERE IN THE DRIVEWAY.  WE CAN LEAVE IT HERE AND PLAY WITH IT WHEN YOU GET HOME.  NOW GET-IN-THE-CAR,” I say.  (Not quite as low and slow that time.)

Now he is crying.  It’s not the manipulative, I’m-trying-to-get-my-way cry.  It’s his genuinely heart-broken and heart-breaking I-am-concerned-about-my-elephant-trunk cry.

And all of a sudden all of my recent reflections about why we humans forget how to “Let It Shine” smack me in the face–as if I just stepped on a rake.  WHAT AM I DOING?

I purse my lips into an “O” and blow:  a physical release of my disappointment in myself.  CAN’T I SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING?

My son is teaching me how beautiful that long and twisted dead stick is, and all I am thinking about is how much room it has been occupying in my recently-cleaned garage.

He is coaching me on how to enjoy the small things and I am hurrying him up so that we can–WHAT?–get to NURSERY SCHOOL??  Where they don’t give a damn if you are late?  Where they sing and color and teach you to ENJOY THE SMALL THINGS??

My son is showing me how to let it shine and not only am I not taking the lesson in it, I am squashing HIS light.

Don’t get me wrong:  I think kids need discipline and I think they need to learn to respect their parents.  If I make a rule, I need to follow through and teach my children to obey.

But why make the rule in this case?  How did we get here?  Do I not know that my son will take his splendid time noticing beauty on his way through the garage EVERY morning?

Why do I not plan time for that into our day?  Why must he adjust to MY pace, instead of me coming down to HIS pace more often?  Why do I not get myself to bed earlier at night so that I can have the PATIENCE to recognize what is and is not important in the morning?

This is how it happens, isn’t it?  This is how we UN-LEARN how to shine.  Our parents are our teachers and if our parents do not take care of themselves and let themselves shine, then when we grow to mirror them, we shine less, too.

It’s time that we un-learn the un-learning, catchers of light.  It’s time that we break the cycle by rocking our basic happiness fundamentals so that we can model–for our children, for ourselves, and for our peers–what it means to glow with an inner light.

This week, I’m committing to a 10:45pm lights-out time.  Every night.  No excuses.  I’m planning time into our morning for a toddler’s pace (you should too, regardless of whether you have a toddler) and if we ARE “late” for something whose start-time doesn’t matter, I’m going to relax and be laissez-faire about it.

Next time I think I am “late” for an appointment, I ought to pay attention because I might be right on time for the elephant parade.

###

A Licensed Joyologist, Waxer of Philosophy, and Optimal Living Evangelist, Bethany Pearson O’Connor dreams that her own journey with learning to “Let It Shine” may assist YOU in unapologetically spiraling towards the greatness that is YOUR destiny, too.  If being “Authentically You” sounds scary to you (as it once did to her), then she prescribes a healthy dose of Gratitude, Humor, Loving Kindness, and Optimism…all of which are available for free on her Catching the Light Blog. Check out her Facebook or follow her on Twitter @_catchinglight.
  • kim

    You are so beautifully right on target! As parents, we can get so caught up in the performance end of what a successful family might look like, making it too easy to make time to allow the spontaneous joy that is everywhere. Kids notice this joy because they have not succumb to performance meassures (be first, be ready, be over organized, be uptight) yet.  As my children have grown they have taught me that life is beautifully messy, and it is those unexpected messes that bring the most unabashed joy.  One day, when my son was three I put him out in the backyard to play after school. He had on his school uniform so Ikindly but firmly reminded him not to get it dirty.  Then I went into the house to take care of my infant daughter.  Ten minutes later I catch a small naked image running across the backyard, laughing and jumping….just completely enjoying the day and a mud puddle he had found in the yard.  His uniform? Neatly folded on the picnic table.  Looking back on that day I am grateful that I had the presence of mind (perhaps of heart) to laugh and allow him  his joy. And like you, my son’s actions that day helped me to remember what it felt like to play….in the moment….without the artificial, self-perpetuated boundaries of rules.

    • Erin Nicole

      That is hilarious, thanks for sharing. Gotta love kids and their beautiful fun free spirited minds

      • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

        Haha–thanks, Erin Nicole!!  :)

    • Bethany

      Oh my goodness, Kim!!  What a beautiful story!!  I’m sure I’ll be thinking about that one tomorrow.  :)  Thanks for chiming in!!  :)

    • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

      Oh my goodness, Kim!!  What a beautiful story!!  I’m sure I’ll be thinking about that one tomorrow.  :)  Thanks for chiming in!!  :)

  • Lisa1337

    Your experience with your children and racing the clock is very similar to my recent experience I shared on my blog post.  Life can be so amazing if we allow it to be! My daughter opened my mind and heart to appreciate the moment and to never take life for granted. I am so grateful today for my children, my sobriety and the opportunity to give back what has been given to me.                                                               https://www.thewatershed.com/blog/bridge-to-terabithia-keep-your-mind-wide-open/

  • Caramel_sundae_29

    Sounds like a typical morning for me! Lol. This is great and thank u so much. I totally agree.

  • AL

    I loved hearing the story about the stick, it reminded me of my son when he was little and he had this thing for sticks.  He would lose one (I would throw as far from the door as I possibly could) to him finding yet another one as we walked to the store!  He  ALWAYS had to have one.    At some point I was able to look at the amazement that he gave this stick.  The wonder he got out of it and I let it be!  They would find there way into the house and we had a rule that it was not a weapon and had to be put in the entry closet  so that it was not underfoot for someone to get hurt by.  Just him knowing that it was in the closet for him for the next time that he went out side satisfied him.    And he would remember too.  As soon as we were ready to head outside he would run back and grab his stick!

  • Erin Nicole

    Beautiful story, I think it’s something we all need to be reminded of as adults and forget to appreciate life like we used to when we were young. Children have such a beautiful outlook, so easygoing and playful. It healthy and we could all use some fun and silliness in our chaotic, rushed, time conflicted lives. Thanks, I can just imagine how cute and uttery amusing it must be to watch your baby girl absolutely elated seemingly out of thin air, and your son acting out as an elephant with him amazingly long beloved stick. Children are a blesssing, I cant wait to be a mom and experience these beautiful days. I’m 26 and looking forward to it!

    • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

      I love that, Erin Nicole!  You clearly have a lot of positive energy to bring to the world and to a child.  Nice to hear from you!  xoxo

  • Zanabites

    This is so perfect and true. How easy it is too miss these small miracles everyday!

  • Eugenie.

    wow.

    • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

      :)

  • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

    Thanks, Zanabites!!  :)

  • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

    So funny that your son had the same interest in sticks, AL!  My son is now negotiating to bring them in the house too…I’ll have to try your closet trick!  :)  It is beautiful that they see so much possibility in a stick.  

  • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

    Thanks so much for chiming in, Caramel Sundae!  :)

  • http://twitter.com/_catchinglight Bethany O’Connor

    I checked it out – you’re right, Lisa!  Many similarities!   Synchronicity!!  :)