Kids Driving You Nuts? Make ‘Em Laugh.

Kids Driving You Nuts? Make ‘Em Laugh.

Can you make your kids laugh?

Allow me to rephrase.

Do you make your kids laugh?

I am not widely considered to be a funny person, but I have found that making my kids laugh is one of the most underrated joys of parenthood.

It also happens to be the perfect antidote for my own bad moods.

We’re a little more than halfway through spring break and the kids are very PRESENT. With me 24-7. And I’m an introvert. I REALLY like my time alone.

You can see the potential for conflict here.

But lately, I’ve been reminded of a delightful truth: grace can even take the form of humor.

When I’m my most cranky and selfish – the moments when I want to go hide in a long bath, read my novel, and paint my toenails over and over again – those are the times when I find that humor helps the most.

And how does a non-funny woman become a comic for her kids?

I do something out of character.

A case in point: I have been known to dab for laughs.

I know, I know – it’s a 2015 move. (I think?) It’s not au courant. Cam Newton and the rest of the cool people have moved on. But that’s why it’s funny.

Do things your kids think you don’t know about in an untimely fashion (and out of the sight of their friends) and they’ll think you’re hilarious.

A few weeks back, it was just me and my two boys at dinner. The conversation was not award-winning and my mood could generally be described as testy, so to counter its effects I did the unthinkable – I dropped my fork and punctuated a sentence with a dab.

Four eyebrows were raised.

“Mom?!” they asked incredulously as I went back to eating.

“What’s up with you?!” I asked them, dropped the fork again, and jerked my arms back toward the ceiling.

They started to choke in fits of giggles. So I kept it up, telling them about something (I don’t even remember what), and ending each sentence with the trademark move.

Milk and water were snorted and tomato sauce spilled on the floor.

Silliness won the day.

And grace won too.

Like so many adults, I get caught up in my thoughts rather than allow myself to just move freely from one moment to the next, embracing the possible spark of joy that each moment holds.

I spend so much time considering the past or ruminating on the future that I miss the NOW.

So this spring break, I’m trying to allow humor to work its magic, because the joy I give to others bounces back and rejuvenates me.

My youngest is whining and says he’s bored, and man, I hate it when he does that. I tackle him as he walks by me, pin him to the floor, and tickle him until he shrieks in laughter.

My tween daughter is making a private Musically video to “Firework” AGAIN, and so I act it out with her, throwing myself in front of her iPad camera like I’m Katy Perry gone psycho.

Tired of the same-old, tired of yourself, and tired of your own foul mood?

Mix it up and and do something I’m sure you’ve done at some point before.

Surprise the ones you love with a move that’s hilariously out of (your) character. It’s a gesture of spiritual generosity you’re not likely to regret.

Who Gives the Best Pep Talks? Total Surprise.

Who Gives the Best Pep Talks? Total Surprise.

For the most part, my kids hang together well. But other days I worry about whether they’ll be on speaking terms when they grow up. They bicker and taunt each other. They mimic one other until someone is yelling and slamming a door. Sarcastic comments have led to hurt feelings. They are not unique kids; they are American siblings. And I am always listening to my own inner voice that tells me when I need to intervene and when I shouldn’t. It’s a learning process for all of us.

Then – once in awhile – they surprise me completely.

Saturday, my 12 year-old daughter and I were in Pittsburgh for an Irish dance competition. She was tired because we’d gotten in late the night before, and after lunch she still had two dances to go when I told her:

“Don’t use up the tank on this third one. Save it. And then just give it all you’ve got for hornpipe.”

Hornpipe was the dance she wanted to win. She’d been dancing well all day, but this last dance was the one she needed to finish off her current level and move closer to becoming a champion.

“Mom,” she said, “You’re really bad at giving pep talks.”

“What?!!” I feigned surprise.

She smiled.

“You don’t want to hear from me?” I continued, knowing full well she really doesn’t, but by that exhausted point, I was clueless about what to say next.

“How about Dad? Does he give good pep talks?”

“Not really.”

“Huh. Who does?”

Then – shocker of them all – she mentioned her older brother.

“Really?!!? What does he say?” I couldn’t imagine a 15-year old being a font of wisdom.

Giggling for the first time in hours she said, “Stuff like, ‘Kick the dancer in front of you.’”

“Oh!” I laughed, “That would never occur to me.”

“Of course not, Mom! You’re you.”

She got in line for her third dance and I texted her brother, saying his words were needed.

Right away he responded with this.

I stared at my phone like it was the best Christmas present I’d ever received.

You are going to do great…I have faith in you…

Did I read that right?

I read it again. And again.

After she came back, I handed her my phone and told her to call her brother. She snatched it with gusto.

A few minutes later she returned, laughing and smiling broadly. Her brother’s encouragement strengthened the words of his text, and hearing his voice soothed her soul. Just like that – he had completely changed her day.

Parents are a family’s leaders. But we often feel sidelined, taken for granted, and forgotten. Most of our work is unseen. While we may ultimately be remembered for the jobs we dutifully perform to provide, to feed, to enable participation and so forth, we are seldom thanked for the even more important work we do: building character in our kids, and showing them how to forge relationships in their lives. 

When was the last time you heard a kid say, “Thank you for teaching me forgiveness and gratitude. I really love my sister/brother”?

Yet this is what we do, every time we speak to our kids about why we treat one another with respect and love, and why we expect them to behave with decency and goodness.

Instilling virtue in kids is like throwing cooked spaghetti at the wall. Do it enough and eventually a piece sticks.

Or so I keep telling myself.

It had been awhile since I’d seen a reminder that this was still truth.

My daughter’s hornpipe dance was absolutely beautiful – probably the best I’d ever seen her do it. And her smile and posture – my gosh….She was on fire with joy.

In the end, she got fourth place. Not the first she wanted, but she had no regrets and had made no mistakes. Judging is a little subjective, and she’ll get her first another day.

And on that day, her brother will be cheering for her while I root for the two of them, from the sidelines.

How I Made My Little Boy Cry and How I’m Mending His Heart

How I Made My Little Boy Cry and How I’m Mending His Heart

I made my little boy cry last night, and I am not proud of it.

It was a typical Thursday. We live in Annapolis and my daughter had Irish dance class in Columbia, which is about 40 minutes away. (Yes, for this particular style of dance, her experience level, and the coaching, the drive is worth it.) So – I was bringing her and another dancer home, when she announced that she was hungry. Understandable at 6 pm after an intense workout. I put my plans for reheating the leftover Mexican casserole on the back burner, so to speak.

We stopped at Chick Fil A. There was another passenger in the car: my 8-year old son. He’d been with us for the entire trip up to dance and back (as he often is) and I was fairly sure he was hungry too. So I fed everyone.

The other dancer’s mother picked her up and we headed home, but not before making yet one more stop to drop off some paperwork for my oldest child’s Boy Scout troop that was due before the coming weekend.

We got home at 7:45. I told my little guy that his dad would be late, and to get a shower. He obeyed me. Then I sat down with my oldest son (age 15, who himself had just arrived home from school and crew practice) to discuss his day while we ate the aforementioned casserole.

At 8:15 my youngest walked into the kitchen and propped his skinny arms up on the far side of the island. I turned around from the sink, hung up the towel, and faced him.

“Ok. So you’ve got 15 minutes before bed. Want to go read a bit before lights out?”

Surprise, bewilderment, and sadness crossed his face all at once.

“Aren’t we going to have dinner?”

I was taken aback.

“You ate at Chick Fil A. Are you still hungry?”

His eyes began to flood. He nodded slightly.

I handed him a banana from the fruit bowl on the counter between us.

“Oh, bud. Come sit down.”

We walked over to the table, and as he slid into a chair and opened his banana, his welling eyes spilled over and he began a full-on cry.

“What’s wrong?” I stammered. But even as I said it, I knew.

“Is it about having dinner? Or just being together…at dinner?”

“Being together,” he managed to say.

I was convicted in where I’d wronged him, and also deeply thankful that all the sacrifices my husband and I make to force as many family dinners a week as we can are paying off. Dinner is often late and preceded by many “appetizers” – plates of cheese and crackers or apples meant to “hold you over” until everyone is home and able to sit down. But our kids love to be together. We are bonding a family, and this little boy’s crying heart was proof.

I coaxed him into my lap, grateful that he’s still small enough to kind-of, almost, fit there, and snuggled with him.

We talked it through. I apologized for all the running around, for failing to explain the day’s turn of events better to him as they were happening, and for not paying closer attention to how he was feeling along the way. And I told him that being together was important to ALL of us.

As a down payment on my renewed promise to reconnect with him, I let him stay up an extra 15 minutes, and we read together. Actually, he read to me, which is what he wanted, and I tell you, after all that driving, it was sort of nice to lie on his carpet and hear a story about a brave mouse going on an adventure.

I’m reading a great book right now called Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx. Marx is a journalist who spends a year with football coach Joe Ehrmann, a former Baltimore Colt, and his team at Gilman High School. The book was published back in 2004, but the lessons for raising kids – especially boys – are timeless and perhaps more important today than ever. Ehrmann argues that our lives are to be other-centered rather than self-centered, and that we find purpose when we choose this path.

When we focus on building and sustaining meaningful relationships over success by any other measure, our lives are more fulfilling and we find the satisfaction that we crave. Empathy is the key. We must develop empathy for one another – the ability to be touched by the pain and plight of others.

I looked at my son and wanted him to know that he was understood. Known. Heard. And cared for.

All it took was a couple moments and a renewed commitment to pay attention to the things that he values. Time with his family. Hugs and laughter at dinner every night.

I could do that. Just BE with him.

And you can do it too.

There is someone you know who has a silent crying heart right now. And your empathy is the key to changing things just a tiny bit for him or her.

Will you stop your endless driving, and sit and listen today?

Thankful Little Boy: Letting Gratitude Live

Thankful Little Boy: Letting Gratitude Live

The small voice spoke from the silence of the back seat.

“I am thankful for Mike.”

“I’m sorry, Honey. What did you say?”

“I’m thankful for Mike. He told me how to get the cars on.”

“Which cars?”

“The new ones. For my Anki Overdrive. I didn’t know how to get them on right and he told me today at lower lot. I’m so thankful for him.”

“Oh. Oh yes, that was certainly nice of him. So, you’re thankful for him, and his friendship.”

“Yes.”

End of discussion.

I looked in the rear view mirror to see my little boy smiling to himself.

My son received a car and track system from Santa at Christmas, and got a couple new components for his eighth birthday this past weekend. I didn’t know he had any questions about how these supplementary pieces would work, because he never had questions before. But with kids, sometimes things are hidden from you.

In any case, he has a friend. A friend who helped him. Gave him a few directions while they stood in line, waiting for their parents to pick them up from school.

And my young son is vocalizing his gratitude about that friendship.

Letting his gratitude LIVE in his heart, and not be a fleeting moment of forgotten, “Thanks.”

Wonderful.

Why do we – as adults – make so little of gratitude?

And find it so hard to verbalize it?

Or allow ourselves to get hung up….

On what others might think if we just said the words, “Your kindness means so much to me”?

Or on the timing of such a remark?

Or on the “appropriateness” of it?

Why do we let the moments that touch us – go?

Isn’t life lived in the tiny, every day moments?

Shouldn’t we be most grateful when they are undeniably beautiful?

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Lighten Up!

Lighten Up!
Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

Do you need to lighten up?

I do.

And I’m not talking about weight here.

I’m talking about attitude.

This is a recurrent theme in my life.

I try hard.

A LOT.

To get things right.

And sometimes I overdo it.

I lose perspective.

I miss what’s really important.

Recently I was remembering one particular time when my earnestness billowed up comically.
When my husband and I were awaiting the birth of our first child, I took seriously the advice that I interview pediatricians. I was convinced the doctor-patient relationship may prove significant in the years ahead.

And so, one very cold, windy December day about a month before my son arrived, I rolled my round self through the doors of a doctor’s office.

I was a vision, to be sure. Breathless from having climbed two flights of stairs, my shoulder-length blond hair was whipped around my head, and I struggled to free myself from my coat – a cherry-red, ankle-length woolen shroud that had once been my mother’s. Back in Philadelphia circa 1988 it had been striking, chic, and regal. On me – 8 months pregnant in 2002 – minus Mom’s 3-inch heels, manicured nails, and expertly coiffed hair – it was somewhat less fantastic. I resembled a squat strawberry past its peak.

Looks aside, I was on a mission.

I had my notes and my questions ready.

I was going to make sure my baby would have the best provider I could find.

When the doctor entered the room, I was slightly surprised that he was no more than 5 years older than me. But no matter. I proceeded through my questions about diet, weekly and monthly visits, developmental expectations, office hours, etc. and he answered dutifully, thoroughly, and patiently until I finally thought, “Good grief. He’s the professional. And I’m exhausted.”

Having crossed just about everything off my list, I looked up at him and asked, ”How am I doing?”

He smiled.

“Fine,” he said. “There are really just a few things we want to make sure all new parents know about.”

“Ok,” I said.

“First, is that we believe in immunizations.”

I felt my eyebrows shoot up and my body start to tremble.

“Umm…” he stammered, “There is a debate right now. And for some people this is an issue.”

I covered my mouth and then burst out laughing.

“Hahaha! I know! I know! Oh gosh! I’m so sorry! I was so uptight about this. About meeting you… I…I…forgot to ask about the most basic, essential things! You don’t have to convince me of this. I’m fine with immunizations.”

He looked relieved.

“Oh. Ok, great!”

I nodded.

“Another thing,” he continued, “Do you have a car seat?”

I laughed harder.

“For real!?! Yes!”

“Make sure it’s installed properly. Seriously. Do that and you’re golden. Everything else we’ll take as it comes.”

I beamed at him.

I deeply appreciated that doctor that day, and every day we’ve visited him since, because he has consistently focused on the NOW. Today’s right thing.

So here’s the rub…

Do you catastrophize?

Do you envision all the ways the future could go wrong before the next hour has even happened?

If so, lighten up.

Our biggest burdens are often the ones we put on ourselves. So toss your heaviest loads aside, look UP for guidance, and trust that you have – and will be given – the appropriate wisdom and strength required to handle whatever comes next.

All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.

(2 Chronicles 9:23)

Someone Died and All He Could Think Was “Where’s the Pork Roll?”

Someone Died and All He Could Think Was “Where’s the Pork Roll?”
My children with their great-grandparents at their 75th Wedding Anniversary Celebration, January 2017.

I always knew there was a range of emotions to encounter in grief, but I didn’t count on humor being one of them.

We were sitting down to dinner on the day my grandfather died. On my own, I had already told the children the news one-by-one, something that needed to be done because my husband was in another state at a colleague’s mother’s funeral and our kids’ age spread meant they wouldn’t be able to process the info in the same way. We had all been together in Seattle just a week before to celebrate my grandparents’ 75th wedding anniversary. Telling the kids that their 94-year old great-grandfather – who had seemed the picture of health – had suddenly entered heaven came as a shock to them, to say the least. Kids are never prepared. But then again, are any of us?

Everyone was happy that it was ‘breakfast for dinner’ – pancakes, eggs, fruit and OJ, but about 5 minutes into the meal my 7-year old son asked, “Where’s the pork roll?” – a Philadelphia favorite and weekend staple in our house.

I let out a frustrated sigh that I wasn’t aware I’d been holding in.

“I forgot it, alright? Bestefar died today and I forgot the pork roll. We’ll be fine without it.”

Then I promptly burst into tears.

My 11-year old daughter dropped her fork and in a shaky voice said, “Oh, Mom! Are you ok?”

Banging his fist on the table – young man of the house – my teenage son declared, “Clearly, she is NOT ok!!”

Turning to me, he said – a little too loudly, “MOM! If you need to go lie down, or…or…or take a break…or something…you just do that, OK?”

Then, to my left, a sweet little 7-year old’s voice said, “Mom?”

In a state of disbelief, I turned to my youngest son.

“Yes?” I said.

“Are you thinking dark thoughts?”

It was all I could do not to burst into fits of laughter.

Maturity in three stages spread out before me. The 7-year old had forgotten the day’s events. The 11-year old could only feel empathy. And the 14-year old was desperately trying to control the situation.

It was a foreshadowing of my own grieving process – the one I would go through in the weeks ahead.

Grandpa passed in January and Grandma passed in March, and every day I’m in one of these three stages: denial, empathy and sadness, or trying to regain a footing. My grandparents meant more to me than most people may realize. Despite the geographical distance between us, they were a firm foundation in my life; I counted on them for stability and strength in ways that only now are becoming apparent to me.

And I’ve been rather silent on this blog as I try to process that realization, focusing instead on just getting through the days. But this morning I realized yet again that what they were to me is what I have been called to be to others. The mantle is passed in this way from generation to generation. And if I spend my life trying to emulate theirs, I will have succeeded in giving my children the precious gifts my grandparents gave to me. These three things abide: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Why Ugly Decorations Are Good

Why Ugly Decorations Are Good

Two unofficial members of our household made their seasonal debuts at our home yesterday, so I thought I’d take a moment to introduce them to you on this, day four of my Month of Good News 2016.
This is Lucy, Guardian of the Front Porch.

lucy

She’s been with us for about a decade. I think I got her at Michael’s craft store for about $6, back when I was trying to make sure our oldest son gained an awareness of the changing seasons. He and this little scarecrow were about the same size, but she didn’t acquire a name until my daughter came along and dubbed her ‘Lucy.’ The name stuck, and now our youngest son has an oddly strong attachment to her.

And this is Cheese.

cheese

I don’t know who named him. But he is a remnant of my brother-in-law’s surprise Halloween-themed 40th birthday party, which was held in 2001. My husband insisted that we keep this lovely trinket as a souvenir. Once, I suggested we get rid of it – an idea for which I was nearly tarred and feathered.

Little did I know that Cheese would become our children’s all-time favorite Halloween decoration. It moves around the house throughout October as the kids desperately try to recreate the famous “Great Shriek” scene of a few years back, when Cheese was placed in my bed. I encountered it unwittingly and responded accordingly.

As you can see, I have a love/hate relationship with Lucy and Cheese. We have other knickknacks that are better looking, and they are displayed as well. But when the kids begin to feel festive in October, these are the two decorations they are most excited to see. From now until January 6, there will be many kinds of holiday embellishments in our home. Thus, Lucy and Cheese ring in the holiday season – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.

Today I was looking for a quote about holidays and found this one from Philip Andrew Adams, an Australian humanist, social commentator, broadcaster, and filmmaker:

“To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.”

I don’t know Adams, so I can’t say whether we’d agree on other topics, but I do think holidays are a time of reassurance, especially for the young and young at heart.

The traditions we keep – like putting out certain decorations – remind our spirits that there is a continuity that cannot be shaken. This speaks Truth to our souls, in a time when we need solidity and comfort. 

For this, I am grateful. Because even if they are ugly, decorations show we have reason to celebrate and give thanks. Good news, for sure.

Finding the Essence of Holiness

Finding the Essence of Holiness
Assateague
Horses on the beach at Assateague Island, July 2016.

I started the day with thanks. The best way for me to start any day.

But this wasn’t just any day.

Some friends of ours had invited my kids and I down to their campsite at Assateague Island to spend an afternoon on the beach and enjoy a couple meals.

Ever since I was a little girl, when I poured over the book Misty of Chincoteague (and all the others in the ‘Misty’ series by Marguerite Henry), I had wanted to visit the islands where Spanish galleons had wrecked and descendants of their live cargo – horses – still roam wild and free.

Today was going to be a monumental day.

It turned out to be more than I’d dreamed.

We drove 2 hours from Annapolis, had lunch at the camp, and crossed the dunes onto the beach. The sight took my breath away.

Horses. Everywhere.

Bays. Chestnuts. Paints. All gorgeous. Breathtakingly gorgeous.

In that moment, I thanked God again for this day, and was reminded of the words of Anne Lamott in her book on writing, Bird by Bird.

There is ecstasy in paying attention.

You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world,

where you see in everything the essence of holiness,

a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. (p. 100)

It was impossible to look on these creatures, surviving here in this unlikely place for hundreds of years, and not see the presence of the Creator.

But that wasn’t my only moment of joyful surprise for the day.

Mid-afternoon, I saw an older woman on a boogie board taking on some huge waves and it looked like so much fun I couldn’t help myself. I ran right out there too. I never even stopped to think about how I looked: pale-skinned 40-something woman who bears all the evidence of her four decades and having birthed three kids. And I’m so glad I didn’t. Letting myself wonder about what goes on in other people’s heads robs me of the fullness of Life intended for me.

The surf at Assateague pounds the beach with tremendous force. These were not gentle lapping waves AT ALL. As I jumped into the sea and the first two swells crested, I lost my footing. The aggressive waves threw me down headfirst – one right after the other! But did I quit? No!!!  I got back on my board, sandy hair and all, and headed out to sea.

The next 20 minutes were exhilarating – riding the whitecaps and kicking back out for more – as were the following 5 when I strolled onto the beach and flopped down with all three of my slack-jawed kids. Each one kept sneaking peeks at me like they’d never seen me before in their lives. Finally, my daughter summed up what they were all thinking.

“I can’t believe you just did that, Mom.”

Yes, I did, kid. Yes, I did. And it felt so good.

Giving thanks opens us up. It changes our outlook, removes our inward gaze.

It’s kind of a sin when you think about it. To not give thanks with everything you can muster, for every good thing that comes your way.

I’m so glad I took every opportunity I could that day.

Every perfect gift is from above,

coming down from the Father of lights,

with whom there is no alteration

or shadow caused by change.

– James 1:17

For a brief video of the horses being startles by my kids’ boogie board being washed ashore, click here.

4 Steps to Draw Closer to Your Kids

4 Steps to Draw Closer to Your Kids

Hands_Wheel_Well

I’ll never forget the very first time I apologized to my oldest son. He was three and we were in the parking lot of Sam’s Club. (Strange how I’m often schooled at Sam’s Club.)

I had been pushing his limits for an hour or more. We’d had playtime with friends in the morning, followed by a quick lunch out, and then errands. At age three, he wasn’t napping every day but he definitely needed one at that moment, and as I parked the car, his rageful crying should have been my cue to turn the car around and head home. But I desperately needed milk (or something else I’ve forgotten these 10 years later) and I wasn’t backing down. So I forged ahead, yelled at him to stop it, and hopped out.

With jerky movements, I opened his door, pulled him out of his car seat and then – Grace grabbed me.

I looked down at his little body in a white t-shirt with a blue shark on the front, shoulders slumped and tired, blond hair tousled from frustration, face red and wet with tears. The sight literally brought me to my knees. Right there by the wheel well.

“Buddy,” I began, “I’m sorry.”

And that changed everything.

Then I told him I could sympathize and why. I shared myself.

He calmed down.

He hugged me before I reached for him.

And I realized he wasn’t the only one who was tired. We both needed a break. And we needed each other.

In the years since, I have followed that first success with many more, and though I’m not perfect, I’ve found that these four steps help me reconnect with my kids when we’re out of whack.

Step One: Get down on their level – literally – and look them in the eye. If they are standing, stand. If they are sitting, sit. If they are lying on the floor, make like a pancake with them. Get close. Sometimes just this one thing is enough to release the tension in the air, and positional differences can subliminally indicate authority or power that we need to de-emphasize momentarily.

Step Two: Tell them a story about yourself. We’ve done more living than they have, and we have material – experiences that our kids will find interesting, simply because it’s about us. We can use it to teach them the values we want them to learn.

Don’t be bound by fear in this effort. Don’t think you need to reveal your most egregious mistakes or all the gory details of an embarrassing memory. Just be genuine and age-appropriate. Our kids love us for who we are. So be yourself and share your ‘take-aways’ – the lessons you’ve incorporated into your life. What makes you who you are. Ask God to help you find the right words, because He will.

Step Three: Within reason, do what they want to do for a little while. Have a catch. Play tennis. Watch the new dance she just made up. Go to the pool and swim with them. Listen to their terrible music. Ask what they’d like for dinner and then make it. Whatever. Just hang with them and appreciate life from their point of view.

Step Four: Be silly. Do the unexpected. By this – I absolutely do not mean buy them stuff. Instead, figure out your child’s sense of humor and be willing to be self-deprecating in order to make them smile.

My mom used to dance once in awhile and I claimed I hated it as I stood there – smiling. Guess what?Sometimes, I dance while I make dinner and my kids laugh at me. (They probably have good reason. No one ever said I had rhythm.) But after a minute or two, they usually dance along with me.

And we’re in relationship with one another. And that’s the whole point.

A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart; good news invigorates the bones.

-Proverbs 15:30

The Cherub Choir Sings “Happy Birthday”

The Cherub Choir Sings “Happy Birthday”
Photo by Stephanie McCabe on UnSplash.com

Twice this week my kids got to plan and carry out one of their favorite feats – calling up a relative to sing “Happy Birthday” to them.

It has become a ritual. Just before the ‘birthday boy’ or ‘girl’ answers the phone (or voicemail picks up), the kids prepare. My oldest son (13) stands at attention, ready to corral the other two, should they fail to fall into line. My daughter (10) fixes her hair, throws her shoulders back, and clears her throat as if readying for an operetta. And my youngest son (6) wriggle-jig-hops like a monkey-frog creature who is simply too jazzed to hold all 42 pounds of himself still for a split-second.

Can’t you just feel the excitement!!??!

Children and birthdays. They go together like pizza and soda-pop.

A birthday is generally a bit livelier and more joyful when kids help you celebrate it, even in a small way – as through a phone call.

Why is that?

Let’s not pretend that kids are perfect. Let’s not say that they aren’t selfish (because all humans are). And let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that this birthday singing business isn’t (for the older ones anyway) at least in part about performance. Because the truth is, children have egos that grow bigger over time, just like their bodies. They will ultimately become like us – grown-ups who have to figure out how to handle that conundrum.

But I will suggest this: Kids don’t look at other people through jaded eyes. They simply see people. One person. Another person. Another person… and so on. And kids rejoice at every opportunity to celebrate.

People + celebration opportunities.

Put these things together and what do you get? Many reasons to sing. For there are people everywhere. And each one has a birthday.

Our hearts soften when we sing “Happy Birthday” with good intentions. Have you noticed? Even in the quiet confines of our minds. Even when we sing to someone who doesn’t hear us.

Try it.

Try singing silently to the person who cuts you off in traffic. Sing to the scowling clerk behind the counter. Sing to the pushy colleague who is always rubbing you the wrong way. Sing to the irritating family member who is standing on your last nerve.

Sing. Sing a happy song. See if your soul doesn’t rejoice just a tiny bit, in a monkey-frog wriggle-jig-hop kind of way.