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Joy is Contagious

Can you imagine if someone had told you at Christmas time, that by the time spring came we would be living in fear-based suspended animation where social life was limited to online interactions and your most perilous adventure was a trip to the grocery store?

You would have thought that they were paranoid and delusional, you would have thought that it was impossible. Like a lot of people I know, I feel like I am drowning a little in this impossible living situation that has become our day to day.

Living isolated from most human contact, trying to teach our kids and do our jobs remotely with little direction and insufficient compassion (particularly from our government) is not just hard, it’s destabilizing.

Unfortunately, it’s still happening.

No matter how much I want to just say, “Fuck this shit I’m out!” (to quote a song a friend recently posted that is sitting close to my heart right now), opting out is not on the list of options.

We just have to keep doing the impossible and reassuring each other that it’s not fine, good or ok, but it will pass. I can’t tell you when it will pass or how it will pass, but I can absolutely guarantee you that this will pass.

In the meantime, we have important people to nurture and care for. Our children, our students, our families, our friends and ourselves. I know it’s hard, but try to include yourself when you think of who you need to care for right now because in actuality you might be the most important person on that list.

I try (at least sometimes) to practice what I preach. There are certainly days where I forget to place myself on my list of things that matter, but then I remember that life is filled with magic, I just need to readjust my focus.

A switch in perspective can help me find little things in my life that make continuing to do the impossible more bearable and then I encapsulate them and preserve them for you.

This week, that little thing was a daffodil.

It isn’t just because daffodil’s are my favourite flower, or because it’s one of the first flowers to bring a spark of colour to an otherwise mostly grey landscape. It’s because it was a moment where I shared something that I love with my family.

Don’t try to cram another worksheet into your child’s unwilling mind. If they are resistant, the likelihood is that they aren’t getting much out of it. Learning can’t be forced. Activities can be forced, schedules can be forced, bedtimes can be forced, but once your child is shut down, learning is not going to happen.

Teaching doesn’t happen through force. It happens through relationship, trust, invitation and perseverance. Learning has to start with a question, an interest, a spark. There is a difference between doing and learning, a difference between memorising and understanding.

The tricky thing about this is that you can’t just plug another worksheet into your child and expect they will keep going and be downloading sums of important knowledge into their brains.

The great thing about it is that whenever you are building your relationship with your child, they are learning. When you wonder, ask questions, imagine and explore together, your kid is getting the most out of their education. You sharing yourself with your family is an incredible learning resource.

I know you are sometimes exhausted and overloaded. I know your child is trying to adjust to a stressful world with little or no peers and none of their usual routine. It is not an easy time.

Therefore, it is the perfect time to focus on something you love. Even if it’s something you haven’t done in five, ten or twenty-five years, now is the time to rekindle your passion for birds, model cars, miniature garden gnomes or photography and share it with your family.

I’m not saying you have to find a lot more time, because I know that is adding to the overwhelming nature of covid-life. I’m saying instead of fighting with your child to do -insert school work here- take them on a trip inside your heart and share something you enjoy.

Why? Because joy is contagious. Even if in the moment they give you their best deadpan preteen stare. I promise if it is something that truly gives you a trickle of contentment then it is worth sharing.

In Kids These Days, child psychologist Jody Carrington talks about how emotional regulation is the most important lesson we can teach our kids. It is more important than literacy and numeracy, it is more important than the lessons I post on Seesaw or the meetings that crop up to clutter my days. It is really the fine art of being human and it’s maybe what this pandemic can offer us.

Our kids are not in a million activities, we aren’t going out anywhere, the world is telling us to slow down and redistribute our energy. The world is giving us a chance to unplug from the world and plug into our families.

It is time to devote a little time to digging into ourselves. What do you do for fun? What makes you laugh? What makes you glow a little from the inside? Those are the seeds that it is time to plant. Fertilising joy with family connections are a good way of getting it to grow.

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