I smiled, she would smile. I made a frowning face, and she would make a frowning face. I remember this little game my toddler aged daughter and I would play as we would mimic each other’s expressions and then always end up laughing.
From the day our children are born they are watching, mimicking, and learning from us as we go. Not only the times that we are consciously teaching them but they are watching us at all times, learning how to act, react, and how to live their lives. This little game we played, of mimicking each other’s facial expressions seems like nothing more than a simple way to entertain a young child. However it is a lot more than that. This game puts the fact that we are our child’s biggest examples right in our faces, literally. The most important job we can do is to be a good example to our children. Being a parent is the toughest, yet most rewarding job there is. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the motions of school, and work that we forget the simple fact that we are shaping and molding a child’s life every single day.
For example, I can get my daughter to try almost anything for dinner depending on how I say it. It has almost become a fun game in our household. I remember when she was very young asking her if she wanted to eat her peas and her defiantly clamping her mouth closed and crossing her arms. It was only when my wife and I described him as “Jonas brother peas” that she would smile and eat every last bite. Either she liked the Jonas’ brothers, or she wanted them dead. Either way, it worked.
Though she is a lot older now these examples are ones that I have to try hard not to forget. Many days, even as an adult I wake up in a funk. I don’t know why but I am tired and grumpy. It’s relatively harmless and it happens to all of us. The problem I see is that my early-morning interaction with my daughter before I send her off to school shows a direct reflection of my mood when she to starts her day in a funk. I have to consciously change my mood, and then watch hers change as well! A simple smile, a joke, or a dance can turn her frown into a positive thought that stays with her all day long.
My wife and I started watching a new program on Netflix. It’s a hilarious but mind numbing show and a fun way to lull ourselves to sleep. One episode in specific stuck with me however. A quirky character on the show started what was called “smile therapy “at the suggestion of his wacky therapist. What made for a funny episode actually got my mind thinking. Not too long ago, I had felt a little stressed out and overwhelmed and noticed my mood taking a turn for the worse. I thought back to that episode on the show where the character smiled anytime he was angry, upset, or frustrated. I decided then and there but I probably would be able to trick myself into having a good morning every morning from here on out. I decided that no matter how bad I felt when I woke up I would smile and almost sarcastically force myself to be overly joyous. I would sing, I would smile, and I would be silly to everyone in the household at least until I have my first cup of coffee. What was funny was that I almost immediately started to feel better. I tricked my brain all of its funk and have been on a bizarre natural high ever since. The mind is an interesting and amazing thing and the part that was most interesting was how contagious it was.
Every day is a new day and the important thing to remember is that each day you can choose what type of example you’re going to be to your child. Our children learn from our positive examples just as much as they learn how to worry, be stressed out, and be grumpy when they first wake up, or when stressful situations arise. It’s amazing how much of their attitude is a direct reflection of our own and how much they are mimicking our every movement.
I’ve been “out of my mind-type” silly today and for the first time in a few months my daughter and I sang all the way to her school. She smiled, she giggled, and we told jokes all the way. It’s important that my daughters day starts with a smile, as much as it is important that my day starts off with one. Being able to take a step back and look at how even our most simple actions are teaching our children how to live their lives really impress upon the levity of being a parent. Being a dad is some very heavy stuff. I might over analyze it a lot, I might beat myself up about it, but every day I strive to be the best parent I can be. That isn’t to say that every day I AM the best parent, and some days I have bad days, while other days I have really bad days. What makes the difference is being able to analyze yourself and make sure you truly are doing the best that you can as much as possible.
With the stresses that come in our every day life it can be easy to put yourself in a cycle and start running on autopilot. But when I noticed that forcing myself to smile started making everything better for everyone I had to realize that it truly was the little things that count. No matter who you are or your situation in life, trust me, we all could use a little “smile therapy.”