Lately I’ve noticed a rash of negativity creeping into the lives of many people I know and love. I’m no sunshine and tulips kind of person whose perky attitude hovers above the “Annoying-as-Hell” level, but I do think that obsessing over negative things at work or in the world can siphon all joy out of simple pleasures too.
Take my daughter, for instance. She’s a middle child, so I’ll cut her some slack, but every day we have to make her step back and see things positively. Working on homework the other day, I glanced at her paper and said, “You’re doing a great job, but you might want to check over your spelling and handwriting before I look at your paper.” A simple, “Yes ma’am,” and a quick editing check would have sufficed.
Instead, she replied, “What for? You’ve already seen my paper.” After a brief, but deliberate review of respectfulness and our house rules, my daughter chose to erase and rewrite some things before I checked her completed homework: wise decision.
In my daughter’s defense, she’s only seven. She’s physical rather than intellectual, lives in the here and now, and thinks the future is dinner time. She’s negative in areas where she prefers to be lazy. But, ask her to help build something, bake something, or run a soccer ball down the field and she’ll give every fiber of her being to completing the task well.
There’s hope for her Negative Nancy attitude though, because she continues to find joy in the things she likes and she doesn’t get bogged down focusing on end results. Adults stress over these way too much. People clog up their minds focusing on outcomes like annual salary, a promotion to increase salary, hanging a diploma on the wall (often for a course of study that will never impact your career), driving a fancy truck or showing off a new boat.
For a child, the paths to results are more often the things that make memories. Think back to the things you remember most fondly from childhood. I remember summer days spent playing outdoors and my mom ringing a ranch bell for lunch. I remember hiking the Grand Canyon with my dad and picnicking behind Ribbon Falls. I remember being seven and hooking a King Salmon in Alaska, seeing it leap out of the water and being furious when my line snapped. My parents were just happy I didn’t die.
For our daughters, we hope to keep the depressing nature of life’s hardships to a minimum. We teach them that if we have less stuff, we get more time with each other, so they understand “doing without.” Give them a choice and they choose this path over fancy frills every time because at the end of the day, they always want Daddy home to be their hero and to dance like fools around the kitchen with Mommy while we fix dinner, together.