One of my children is more naturally a pessimist than the other. This child can go to a birthday party, happy to be surrounded with friends and games, living it up, and then on the way home say, “That was only a little bit fun.” And turn into Eeyore.
“But the cake was delicious!” I’ll retort.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t vanilla, and vanilla is the better flavor,” my child would respond with.
“The games were fun!”
“Until I got hurt.”
For a long time, our conversations would always take a downward turn. A friend who provided hours of fun tripped my kid once, and suddenly the entire afternoon of play was “awful.” School was horrible because the teacher didn’t make my child the line leader.
Eventually, I’d had enough. One time, while trying to persuade my child to do something they found particularly miserable, I said, “Here’s my challenge to you: find the good.”
It took awhile. But with consistency on my part and a little guidance, we settled into a rhythm. After dreading a day at school, my child would hop in the car pick-up line and declare “I found the good! My buddy played with me at recess, and my teacher gave us some candy for being extra smart.”
Over the last several months, I’ve returned to the mantra of “find the good.” It’s been hard to live in the midst of a pandemic, having things closed, and isolating from friends and family.
The disruption to routine has thrown us all off and put us in a funk. I’ve realized that as I complain, I myself need to take time to find the good.
But sometimes finding the good is not something that happens organically. Sometimes I have to create the good before I can find it. And that’s okay.
Here are some practices we do as a family to help us find the good. Maybe they’ll encourage you, as well.
Directed Dinnertime Conversation
Every night at dinner, we go around the table and ask each other, “What was the best part of your day?” This is a great way to reflect on the day and find at least one good thing. Sometimes it’s as simple as “a stranger said something kind to me,” and other times it’s big like “we got to eat ice cream for lunch!” Once everyone sits down to eat, my kids are tripping all over themselves to be the first to ask, “Daddy, what was the best part of your day?” Their excitement and interest encourages me.
Treat Yourself and Your People
Some days are just terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, and make you want to move to Australia. Whether you’re the one with the grumps or your spouse or kids are, acknowledge that it’s not going great, and then try to fix it. Maybe it means letting your kid stay up late to watch a movie or read. Maybe it means running out for that iced latte you’re craving. Maybe you need to leave a little love note for your husband.
My kids, surprising friends with signs that said “Be Kind” and “Smile.”
Look Outside of Yourselves
Yes, I just told you to treat yourself. However, it’s also important to look outside of ourselves. I have found when I’m feeling most down, I am rejuvenated by doing something for someone else. My kids have experienced this, too.
When everything shut down in March, my kids sprung into action. They made some signs and then we’d drive to friends’ homes, stand outside their windows with the signs, and text them to look outside. It gave us a shared purpose, something fun to do, and often it became the favorite part of our day, shared at dinner. When I get a moment, we’ll write letters to friends, just because. Or drop off flowers or cookies.
Doing something for someone else is so rewarding and fulfilling — and maybe it’s the thing that helps your friend find the good in his or her day, too.
Create Weekly Rhythms
School has started and our new routines have kicked into high gear. I’ve found it helpful to put our weekly calendar on the fridge for all to see, and to know what to expect. This has actually created a calm among my children, and given them things to look forward to and anticipate. Who knew that would boost spirits?
Yes, we are living in “unprecedented times” (tell us something we don’t know), but after the first month or so it dawned on me that I could do little things to make these times less disappointing. Every once in awhile it means surprising my kids with a Lego set — why wait for a holiday or gift giving occasion? Or picking up a favorite treat from the grocery store. Months ago, a friend realized that picking up take-out and putting the kids in front of a movie every Friday night would allow her to have an unconventional date night with her husband — and, bonus, it was life giving! So they’ve kept that in their weekly rhythm. Whatever works for you!