Lorelei is 6 1/2. She is bright, enthusiastic, cheerful, thoughtful, and fun-loving. I try to remind her each night as I say good-night to her how much joy she brings our family. As I sit on her bed, I remind her that our family is lucky to have her.
One night, as I was about to say good-night, her normal brightness and enthusiasm and cheerfulness was...drooping a bit. Good girls are certainly entitled to a bad day here and there, so I hugged her even tighter.
Then she looked at me, and stated: "Mommy, I'm sad."
I sighed, smiled, and sat down. I asked her to tell me about it, but she admitted that she didn't know why she was feeling sad--she couldn't pinpoint it to school or to the bus ride or to home or to a person or to an activity. There was sometimes just some sadness that washed over her. I explained to her that sadness was an emotion that was going to be part of her life--as it is a part of all of our lives--even though I sure wish I had a magic wand that could protect her from it.
We chatted a little, me trying to be wise and Lorelei listening politely, until Lorelei suddenly brightened. "Mommy, that's it! I've got it! Let's have a 30 Day No Sadness Challenge!"
(Background: In the fall, I completed a 30 Day No Yelling Challenge because I didn't like how I was yelling almost every day at one kid or another. It was a habit I wanted to break, a behavior I wanted to change. So I enlisted the kids' help--told them to say, "Ben and Jerry's!" when I was about to yell to a) lighten the mood and b) remind me of the prize at the end of the challenge. It worked pretty well though I did break a door out of frustration, which is sorta ironic. But I didn't yell. Hmm. I think this is my SOL next week...)
I smiled, "I don't think that's the point. Yelling is a reaction that is not helpful and not kind. Sadness is an emotion that we can't just will away. I think the point with sadness is to know that it exists and still be happy. The challenge is to hold gently whatever it is that's making you sad, and remind yourself to look at all the good, happy things in your life and focus on those. That way, you can still feel sadness, which is just part of life, but still dance with joy. That's the challenge."
It was one of those moments where the words were directed at Lorelei, but I knew that I needed to hear and listen and believe them myself. As 2013 comes to a close, I am so grateful that the sadness I felt on the first day of this year has slowly diminished. I've trained myself to look at the good and happy, which (lucky me) is always within arm's reach.
And yet, I know that my specific sadness won't ever go away completely. But I'll learn to dance with it, and hopefully show my daughter (and sons!) that life is better when you invite in all these complex emotions.