We all have them – “those” people. The joy stealers. Sometimes family, sometimes friends, sometimes complete strangers. At times it is subtle, unobserved and completely isolated. Other times it is consistent and bold, calculated behaviour. I had a friend that constantly criticized what I wore or how my hair looked. There are moms that like to update me on all the short-comings or problems my children have based on their own observations. “I just thought you would like to know…” it always starts. There are people in my life that “need to set the record straight” and remind me of past mistakes that I may have made or all the things that I need to change in my life because the way I’m doing it just isn’t “the way they would do it”. If I hear the phrase, “If you would just…” one more time I will become a raving lunatic. And of course, there are those that do nothing but complain about everything and do nothing to change; they are always the victim. One of my resolutions this year is to reduce the amount of time I spend with joy stealers. Obviously we can’t avoid all of them, or all situations, so my goal is also to be less effected.
But what if I am the one stealing the joy?
My husband asked the girls yesterday how was their day off from school. Both of their faces lit up, exclaiming, “Great! We got to spend it with mom. She took us bowling and out for lunch. It was a fun day.”
Seriously? Did we have the same day? I remember a huge fight in the morning because someone didn’t want to share and then someone else didn’t want to apologize. Then there was whining at the bowling alley about the color of the balls and their low scores. How many times did I utter the words, “don’t climb on that!” and how about all the tears because someone didn’t like the restaurant the majority chose? At one point in the day I remember shouting the words, “Just stop! You are ruining my day!”
My day. Didn’t they understand that things weren’t going as planned? Didn’t they get that I wanted them to act more like adults than like children? Didn’t they realize that this day was supposed to be all about me?
But then this morning I realized how foolish I had been – all day. I was stealing my own joy. I was allowing their behaviour, basic child-like behaviour, to set my mood. It wasn’t their actions that were spoiling everything – it was my reactions. I was only focusing on the few moments of frustration and creating more drama rather than seeing that they were just small blips in the day. There were more moments of joy than anything else.
And I was stealing their joy every time I raised my voice, or lectured just a little too long or reminded them of an earlier grievance that had already been dealt with and apologized. Children are resilient and forgiving. They love us unconditionally until we teach them about conditions. I needed to remember that they bring me joy every day. Sometimes in bucket-fulls, sometimes just a teaspoon but it is always present. They were able to focus on the things that really mattered and let go of all the things that didn’t.
Each day deserves a mantra – “Today, I will not steal the joy.”