by Jessica Perkins
Today I had the privilege of taking my 8-year old (alone) on errands with me. Wow. One. One, older child…is so easy and light to travel with. She’s so self-sufficient. Buckling and unbuckling…alone. Helping open doors and carrying things. We actually talked and I was able to listen. Really listen. The way I can’t when two other, highly spirited, younger children are around.
We stopped at the coffee shop on our way – an eta of 5 minutes turned into GRIDLOCK traffic due to a parade and it actually took us 45 minutes. FORTY FIVE minutes.
Car horns blaring. People getting out of their cars, scratching their heads. Yelling at each other. No one letting any cars into the line of traffic because they didn’t want to get stuck one car further down. More beeping. Finally, I turned the corner…to find yet another dead end, another road block, more grid lock and more of the same – frustrated drivers, lashing out at each other – at their passengers – at random strangers in cars in front of and behind them.
She starts to get upset…. Feeding off the negative energy of the still chaos around us. And I turn the radio down a bit and ask if she will play the Glad Game with me (you know, like in Pollyanna). It’s a game where, when you can’t at first think of something to be happy and smile about, you find something to be glad about anyway.
We came up with: Glad to have more just us time.Glad to have Radio-listening time. Glad the little kids aren’t in the car.Glad we can park and walk to get our coffee. Glad the sun was shining.Glad we got to hold hands. Glad we got to spend one on one time together.Glad we got to catch a glimpse of a parade. Glad we had nowhere uber important to be.Glad we could talk. Glad we could find something to be glad about.
It’s so easy to find yourself trapped in other people’s emotions (particularly, I find, negative emotions.)And we TALKED about that.
There was a Mom with a young teenage boy in the car behind us. I was in a parking space and had to get out, into the gridlock. I had my blinker on, edged my way in…no one let me in. So I kind of (safely) forced my way in. And she laid on the horn. And she was screeeeeaming at me through her car (because, you know – all those things you say to people from behind the wheel that you would never actually say to people in person..) and I just looked in my rearview, flashed her a big smile and waved “thank you” (a genuine thank you as if I didn’t know she was beeping at me).
She asked if I was mad at her (for being mad at me).
No, it’s not worth my feeling negative and mad about.
I explained that she was just frustrated and, sometimes, when people are frustrated they take it out on other people. That, in fact, most of us have done it. That negative energy has a way of bubbling over and turning into anger. And sometimes that comes out as mean and hurtful words or actions. I asked her if that’s ever happened to her before. She said yes. And I asked her how it made her feel. Did she feel better after saying or doing something mean or hurtful when she was feeling mad? And she said, “no, it makes me feel bad too.”
I told her how negative energy has a way of trickling down from one person to another. Sometimes parents to children. Sometimes children to other children. Often times it looks like bullying. But it really never makes anyone feel better.She remarked about how the boy in the car was on his phone – just zoning out.
And I said … Can you imagine being in the same car with someone as angry as his mom is right now? He’s probably trying to get away from the negative feelings/energy by retreating into his phone world.
What are some things you could do to not let the negative energy trickle down on you?
She said: zone out. Play the glad game. Talk to friends on a phone. Listen to music. Look outside.
Yup.All those things.
The thing is, the only way to change the energy is to first Notice it and then to CHOOSE a different path. Instead of spreading anger or negative energy (which you told me earlier really doesn’t feel good anyway), what are some ways we can spread Happy?
She said… Smile. Hold the door. Write someone a note. Tell someone you love them. And why you love them. Be grateful. Be helpful. Be patient. Play. Ask if someone needs help. Dance.
Yup.All of those things.
She looked around at all the people in all the cars and on the street and looked at me in the rearview mirror and said: “you know, Mom. We are the smiley-est people stuck in traffic.”
And so we were.
We turned the radio on a little bit louder. We danced. We sang. We smiled and waved at the other cars along our way (even in our frustration!) Because, sometimes — there is nothing you can do — and, in those times, you might as well Spread Some Happy.
Per her loving request …. We ask that YOU spread some happy today too! If you want to share, she would love to hear what you are doing to Spread Happy in your life <3
Jessica Perkins is a Philly-based business owner, mother of three, a toy and children’s literature connoisseur, and a believer in intentional, playFULL parenting. She is the owner of Mama May I handcrafted toys, where she shares her belief that play IS the important work with families around the world. She believes in the power of words, connection, and inspires others to embrace their beautiful, messy lives. You can connect with her through her blog at www.JessicaPerkins.com.