Embrace Joy

Reposted from the Toddler Guru blog by FCM Toddler House Director Angie Ma:


“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I’m only one of the 8 million people that watched Dr. Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, but the truth and clarity of her talk resonated so deeply with me that I sought out her interview and ravenously devoured her newest book, Daring Greatly.

She stopped me fully in my tracks explaining, “Joy is the most terrifying emotion.” It took me a second and her astute explanation to take that one in. Take those moments, she explains, when we gaze upon our sleeping child, only to imagine a tragic accident ripping her away in the next moment. Yup, I’ve done that, have you? Are we all just crazy? Not exactly, we’ve just learned that letting go enough to fully experience joy often means we open ourselves up to heartache and loss. Even if we aren’t recounting or dwelling on these memories consciously, our adult brains remind us, “Watch out! We’ve been on this thrill ride before, and the free fall that sends your stomach into your throat is just around the corner. Jump ship!” That is when we back away from the joy and dip in our toe instead of jumping with two feet.

Our children don’t do this. Only a toddler will stop and smell the flowers, completely immersed in the moment. For a toddler, A moment of joy is all encompassing and he will relish in that moment until he is filled up. Each novel exploration is like a rock falling in a deep pond that creates a loud noise and a splash, then waves, ripples and finally a glassy calm that can reflect the world around him.

The problem- we usually interrupt the child at the splash, never allowing her to fully integrate each new experience. Her day becomes a series of splashes and chaos each time we rush her, interrupt her concentration, constantly correct, direct, or distract her from something that is too loud or too messy for us. The wisest woman I know, my Montessori trainer Judi Orion, spoke words that I live by every day. “Never interrupt a child if the motivation is positive,” she told her students. This is not convenient advice, because the result is often messy, loud, rambunctious, but it certainly serves the child. This moment of trust gives her an opportunity to learn from failure and persevere or to experience a moment self realization because she has followed her own interests.

What possesses us to constantly hurry our children, rush through our days and perpetually distract? Could it be this joy phobia? If we aren’t comfortable leaning into the joy, is part of us trying to save our child from experiencing the pain of life? We must know deep down that a life lived in the shallow end is the real loss. We must lean into the joy, fully accepting that pain and loss is a part of life for us and for our children.

How can we achieve this seemingly impossible task to slow down, live life fully and jump into the deep end of joy with two feet? We can start by learning from the greatest gurus of joy I’ve ever met, our toddlers.

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