These thoughts haven't come from being discontent, or because of anything happening -or not happening- but rather due as a regular checking-in. Something I do often to ensure I'm not making assumptions (thinking I get to choose what makes my children happy and alive), and the assessment also reigns in the "I'm the boss" urges, and I get to recalibrate to a more joyful point.
With binoculars and umbrella.
So. What makes for Perfect?
What are my favorite things?
What makes me spin up to the clouds?
What is it that makes me want to weep with the pure joy of the thing, at the end of a day?
Good exercise, asking that.
Adventure : I love a fine adventure. Tromping, photographing, wandering, uncovering, seeking...
Stimulation : I love it when we're stimulated. Interested. Inspiration and rabbit holes.
Fulfillment : Being filled up to the tippety-top with goodliness. Icecream cones, bike rides, music in the park.
The Cool Factor. Something -anything- extraordinarily cool.
Imagination : True creativity, ingenuity, inventiveness, make-believe...
Wonder : Curiosity.
Thrive : That means happy, curious, and learning.
Sparkle : Sparkly smiles, sparkly home.
These things run together, hmm? One leads to three others, or all leads to one.
But practically speaking, if I have managed to enkindle or affect even one of these things in a day, then I figure I have done my job very, very well.
'Investigating Electricity' kit
"Good morning, darling," Snuggle, snuggle. "I was just thinking about what makes me really happy. About my favorite things to do. What are your favorite things? What makes you really, really happy?"
"Well, playing with you, going to the park, getting on the computer, finding out new things, going for walks...."
"That's a fine start to the list."
"And playing with stuffed animals."
"If you could design a perfect day, what would it look like?"
"Well, you did say we could go swimming today."
"Yeah. I don't necessarily mean today... I just mean things that make you go, 'Wow life is good!'"
"I already told you."
"Playing with me, going to the park, getting on the computer, finding out new things, going for walks..."
"And playing with my stuffed animals. And play with the dog. And have some fun."
"Well, there are lots of different things that make me happy!"
I got to Trevelyn, soon after.
"I've been thinking about the way we do things, and what we do, and have been thinking about happiness. Your happiness. What makes for a really good day for you? What are your very favorite things?"
After twelve different ways of asking, we finally got to, "Well, I don't want to be obvious, and say playing on the computer and wii."
"This is your list, Bud. And I am asking. Name whatever the things are that make you feel that life is so, so good. What does a perfect day look like? Or twelve perfect days?" Had to explain my version of Perfect to him. Hmmph. "I don't mean 'nothing goes wrong', I mean, "Wow! I love my life! But forget perfect, if you like.... think really, really great. What are the most fun things for you?"
You might suppose this to be a really obvious question and answer. You live with and love your son. What does he like? But we're talking about the relationship between a very enthusiastic mother, and a little moonchild, who almost always says that he -but not always actually does- prefers to stay, here, in his shell. As Is. I don't drag him kicking and screaming, but his family does coax and nudge him a bit... which brings up all kinds of questions in the mind and heart of an unschooling Mama who absolutely believes in sovereignty and a tyranny-free childhood.
"Well. I do like going out and doing fun things. I like going to lunch, and to get an icecream. I like going skating, or to the zoo, or the aquarium, and to the dinosaur park.
"And I like playing games with my mom. Especially Quoridor, Quarto, Pentago, Rumis, Checkers, the Allowance Game, Big Brain, and the pyramid game."
"And you like playing on the computer, and the wii."
"What is is that you like about the computer? Besides JPOG?" (I know the specifics of why 'JPOG'--it's a Jurassic Park game--it's similar to zoo tycoon, only it's just dinosaurs, on an island. You have to raise them from dna you've dug out of the ground, etc, etc.)
"I like exploring the internet. Lately I've been playing Godzilla again, so I'm really liking the Tojo Kingdom shorts."
"Really short animated films that Tojo makes. They're really funny."
"Ah, I see." Then, "Are there things that we do that you don't like? Things you'd like never to see again?"
"A lot of times at night I get really bored on the computer." (Trev stays up later than the rest of us do, ordinarily--always has.) "When I get bored like that, I just get off of it, and go to bed. Sometimes I wish you were there, with ideas of things to do."
"I can't be up at that time, Bud. I'm just not made that way."
"Do you think that if you played on the computer all day, that you would be bored by evening? That the reason you get bored with it at night is because you've played with Maddie and I a lot during the day, and so when you get on the computer, after a while you just get bored?"
What I was trying to get to, was a sort of assessment of his life, and a recognition of things that make him happy, and fulfilled. Not things that I want him to appreciate, just an acknowledgment of good things in his life, so that we might better pursue those goodly things.
"So anything that you don't like? Never want to see, again? Do you never want me to ask again you if you want to do such and such?" Play games, I was thinking... check things out... science investigations....
Again, asking these questions is something I feel compelled to do, as I get really worried about dominating this child's life.
"No. If you never asked me if I want to do something... I'd be bored to death, I think." Quite a realization, that. Maybe it wasn't news to him, but it sure was good news to me!
"I like to read my books. My encyclopedias. And I like running around outside. And jumping (on the trampoline). And biking."
"Anything else? Anything that makes you feel really good? Like.... getting along well with Maddie? Playing with Dad?"
"Yeah! Both of those things. It's a good day when Maddie doesn't torment me."
"Yeah... I was thinking more along the lines of you guys playing together, and being happy together."
"Yeah. It's always good when we play and she doesn't annoy me." :) Was trying to get him to see his own part in that tango, but they communicate with each other pretty well for the most part, so I'll let that slide...
"Anything else? I've been asking you a lot lately how I can love you better, and you never really have any answers for me... this is all connected. I'm checking in. I want you to be happy."
"No. I can't think of anything. I want to be respected. But I don't want to be spoiled."
"What does that mean? That you don't want to be spoiled?"
"I just mean that I don't expect to get anything or everything. No matter what. Whenever I want."
"Hmmm." Like Tv Mike? Varuca? Violet? Upon further questioning, he's referring to Greg's younger brother (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). I think what he means is that he doesn't expect the world to revolve around him. That he knows he's a part of something (family, community, society), and he is aware of others' needs, too. I told him that we try to find a way for him to get most of what he wants, and we never spank, and he's not spoiled.... but we'll save all that for another day.
Seems that we're doing alright.
My ideas of happiness are absolutely true for me, and there is an abundance of (infinite!) room in there for the babes' delight, also.
I truly believe that we're open and accepting enough with our children that they could (and more importantly, would) tell us if something was going the wrong way. Away from Joy.
The intention of the initial question is to keep communication open of course, but it is also a great way for me to exercise unattachment (being unconditional)... and I have to do everything I can to make it known to my children that they are not responsible for my happiness, while also allowing that their happiness is a cause for my own.
Lots of words to say that... you know...
All is well.