Saturday night my two-year-old daughter gave a special, by-invitation-only concert for my husband and me. She pushed a chair from the kitchen table to the kitchen island. She turned the copy stand that was holding my spiral-bound Fruits, Nuts and Flakes family cookbook so that it faced her.
“Hmm” she thumbed through the pages of the cookbook, now her “songbook”.
“Oh. This a good one,” she nodded her head approvingly and cleared her throat seriously.
She looked at us and then zipped her mouth shut as if to say “Be quiet.”
“Mornin’ Momma, Mornin’ Momma. How are you? How are you?”
I recognized the Frère Jacques tune, but not the words in the last two lines, though they were sung with enthusiasm.
At the end of the song, we all clapped, and my daughter beamed. She thumbed through the songbook again.
“Oh, this one.”
And soon my husband and I were being treated to a rousing rendition of the ABC song, complete with those new letters “ell-minnow-pee”.
Again my husband and I clapped and cheered, and there was more very serious thumbing through the “songbook” for more ideas. By the end of the concert, we heard “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Five Little Monkeys”, “Little Bunny Foo Foo, complete with action ‘bops’”, and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. The concert concluded with the “Isty Bisty Spider.”
Our daughter is still young enough not to be self conscious. She sings and dances with abandon, laughs and giggles hysterically, and throws herself into everything she does. As a matter of fact, she takes life very seriously, making sure that everything she does, she does right and to the best of her ability, including the occasional protest. She plays, works and naps as if no one is looking.
It’s refreshing to see, and something that all adults, older children and teenagers could learn from as well.
We live in a world that discourages really putting our hearts into things. We tend to laugh at or dismiss the person who throws himself wholeheartedly into his job or his family. We smile dismissively at young people in love. We nod patronizingly at the young adult captivated by a speaker or a cause. And often we find ourselves afraid to dance with abandon or really show emotion because we know we will be judged in the same way.
There is a great deal of emphasis in our society on things like “anger management” and remaining calm, cool and collected. To a point, that’s okay, but instead of controlling our anger, maybe we would do better turning the energy of anger to help those things and causes we really care about. Are you angry about people abandoning pets? Go volunteer at an animal shelter and help take care of those animals.
Being calm and cool in crisis is a good thing. But, most people I know who are calm and cool in crises are like ducks: smooth as glass on the surface and padding like mad underneath, and most of those people, at least the ones who are truly effective at crisis management, readily confess to that picture. They aren’t calm because they feel nothing; they are calm because they know that crises require rapid response, quick thinking and on-the-spot action: they are paddling like mad underneath.
One physician friend told me that 75% of the patients she sees are taking antidepressants. While clinical depression is a disease that can and should be treated, I can’t help but wonder if we are too quick to turn to a pill for happiness instead of trying to find Joy within ourselves. Of course true Joy is a double-edged sword: it comprises many things including sorrow, triumph, happiness and loss.
For now my daughter lives life fully, and I intend to encourage that in her. Soon enough she will encounter the critic, the skeptic and the bah-humbug. Hopefully though, she will always be able to find that part of her, the two-year-old, who gleefully performs with abandon to the Joy of those around her.
© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.