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Smile! It's a gift.

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Since having my two children there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t smiled. And I’m not talking about one of those forced smiles that shows only on the outside. I’m talking one of those smiles that spreads across your face and into your heart. The kind that instantly lights and lifts you up no matter what else is going on around or inside of you.

Sure, there have been plenty of moments since having those two little darlings that haven’t exactly been filled with smiles. But even those most challenging of moments pale in comparison when I reflect on the special memories I can conjure up at ease recalling all those times they’ve gifted me with that daily smile. And boy is it ever a gift. There’s nothing that can quite match the infectious, innocent, joy-filled spirit children carry and share with those around them.

But what happens as that little child begins to grow? Can we expect them to always so effortlessly grant us that ‘highlight’ in our day that we’ve maybe come to take for granted will be given to us? As a parent, I hope to protect as much of their child-like spirit as I possibly can, in hopes they don't lose what so many adults seem to along the way. But even if I do a decent job at that, it’s only natural that they will have moody, insecure, crabby days where maybe they don’t have a bucket full of smiles to share. And here’s the thing, that’s OK. Though that doesn't mean it's an easy thing to get used to.

Let’s face it, it’s pretty easy to get used to being welcomed with hugs that come from a running start, declarations that you’re the ‘best mom/dad ever’, endless homemade gifts providing you tangible symbols of just how much they love you and being in demand as the most desired play date and friend they want to spend their time with. A decade plus into this, and my mama heart aches at the thought of those things I hold so incredibly dear changing even ever-so-slightly.

But what if instead, during their adolescent years, it’s our turn as parents to return the gift and be the reason that they smile everyday. If I’m honest with myself, I can see how this could become harder in future years. I mean, come on...it’s not that hard to love up on a giggling little baby or an inquisitive, sweet little child. It’s much harder to love up on an adolescent acting moody, selfish or constantly annoyed with you. A wise, strong woman once wrote that when a child is acting the most unlovable is when they need the most love (shout out to Grandma Jeanne). I'm savoring that I'm not at this juncture yet and am still fortunate to be on the receiving end of their sweet goodness. But I want to be intentional using this transitional time now before the next chapter of their childhood begins to remember that this gift may take different forms over the years ahead.

It may come in different ways, at different times. And I may need to be the giver more than the receiver. And while this may feel like just one more way that parenting can be a selfless act, I want to instead look at it as my opportunity to give them the acceptance, love and kindness that they so effortlessly have given me. Because while some days I’ve really nailed this whole mom thing, there are plenty of other days I know I’ve come up short. And they have never once made me feel any less loved because of it.

Growing up is hard work. As a parent, it’s easy to have the perspective that only 20-30+ more years of living can provide to start to forget or minimize that. I want to remember:

  • those feelings of insecurity and questioning where I fit in
  • the period where I found myself so annoyed with the world around me that my parents tired of my eye rolls and ‘whatevers’ (complete with making the classic 'W' sign with my hands because I was cool like that)
  • that even I the 'rule-follower' got frustrated that I couldn't eat downstairs, stay out as late as my friends or have a TV in my room.

Because while the adult version of me understands what was behind each of these rules, the kid version of me did not.

So here's to hoping that I've been learning from my children all these years and can gift them with plenty of smiles by remembering to not be so serious, taking time to be more silly & play, finding excitement and joy in everyday little things, holding onto the good stuff and letting go of the bad stuff, taking more pauses from what my head thinks I need to do to spend more time on what my heart knows I need to do.

Remembering my own journey can only help me to view my children’s journey with the appreciation and patience that it deserves. And maybe, just maybe, if I do this right (well, most days anyways)…I can be the one to help give my children a reason to smile each day. And not one of those forced smiles, but the good kind, that lights and lifts them up no matter what else is going on around or inside of them.

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