Last week I caught myself thinking, Ugh, I have to go through the whole bedtime routine tonight. I was tired and envisioning the delay of my own bedtime. My daughter’s pre-nap and bedtime routine has become quite the production. Besides books, affirmations, and lullabies, I now have to kiss various stuffed animals goodnight, perform a series of tickles, and shower my daughter with kisses from another set of stuffed animals. The whole routine is probably 15-20 minutes from start to finish. It helps my daughter feel safe and secure, and most of the time is ensures that we all get a restful night of sleep.
This pre-sleep routine isn’t going to change, my daughter loves her rituals. However, I can change the way I think about it. I recalled learning years ago that happier people replace the term I have to with I get to. This simple language change kindles feelings of gratitude, which in turn prompt an overall feeling of contentment. Imagine how much happier we would all be if each day we thought, I get to work today rather than I have to work today.
I cherished the idea of motherhood and dreamed of the joys of parenting for years before my daughter was born. When I became a mother, the bliss I felt was better than I ever imagined. It isn’t normal or even healthy to live in a constant state of bliss; however, I shouldn’t feel hassled by my child’s needs. So, I started looking at our pre-sleep routine with a fresh perspective. I began thinking, How lucky am I? I get to spend this precious time with my child before she sleeps. I trained my thoughts to reflect on how much I longed for this child, to notice her little quirks, and to treasure this time with her while it lasts. And guess what? My frustrated feelings about our extended routine dissipated after only two days of replacing my thoughts!
I reflected on other areas that could be improved from this simple swap—daycare drop off, baths, meal prep, etc. and I realized that parenting offers countless opportunities to exhibit gratefulness. When I drop my daughter off at daycare in the morning I get to sing with her in the car and give her a big squeeze before sending her off with her friends. When she wakes up from a nightmare in the middle of the night, I get to hold her close and rock her back to sleep. There are still moments when I think I have to—it’s natural to be beleaguered by the perpetual demands of parenting, but now I catch myself and say, How can I show gratitude for this present moment? By allowing more space for gratitude, I am finding more room for joy. After all, these small moments are the ones that we will miss most when our children are grown.
Where can you find space for the phrase, I get to in your day to day life as a parent?