Be appreciativeIt had been one of those days where I felt I was dashing around a lot for very little reward. Tidying, vacuuming, chivvying the kids around - and now I was in the kitchen starting on dinner while the rest of the family was watching TV. I'd just finished pummeling the pizza dough into submission when Theo wandered into the kitchen. He looked at the beige blob in the mixing bowl and exclaimed, "Wow, that's amazing Mum! You made that!" A smile broke over my face, and I realised: Yes. I did make that. And actually, it is pretty amazing.
What is just as amazing is how a tiny pinch of unadulterated appreciation changes how we feel. Like the yeast in the bread dough, a few kind words turn a sticky lump of a day into something growing larger and lighter. So I resolved to try and give that gift to myself and to others more often this year. To stop and look and say, "That's amazing! You did that!" To be appreciative.
We are in a slightly odd position at the moment. We have money. We just don't have much income. Obviously, if we keep not having income, we will, in the end, not have money. This is something we're doing everything we can to prevent, which includes trying not to spend too much of the money we do have, so as to have longer before we don't have it any more.
Unfortunately, this tends to result in both of us viewing the other's purchases with suspicion. Did you really have to buy that? Are you sure you couldn't have saved money on that? And we both end up feeling slightly guilty, a little bit defensive, and somewhat resentful. That's not a particularly good way to feel. I realised, even though we're budgeting, we still need a generous mindset. We don't want to cling on to every last penny as though it will save us. We don't want to be constantly adding up how much you spent and I didn't spend. So here's another gift to give this year. To say, "I'm glad this money could buy something you need." To be generous.
"Well done, you put your own shoes on!" "Look at that drawing you did - so colourful!" "That's great, you got up all by yourself!" In early life every little thing is a new achievement, and we do our best to surround our children with a blizzard of encouragement.
As we get older the expectations kick in. Too often we find ourselves saying, "Why didn't you do that?" "Weren't you thinking?" "You never remember!" Encouragement changes to discouragement, and instead of looking for the good, we see only the ways in which people let us down. When I realise what tiny things I praise my two-year-old for (and when he praises me back!), I start thinking that maybe some of the other people in my life could use some more positive feedback. Toby might look at me funny if I tell him how great it is that he put his own trousers on, but he notices when I compliment him for being polite at the dinner table.
We all like to have our efforts noticed and our failures overlooked. And that's one more gift to give. To say, "Well done, I saw what you did." To be encouraging.
What gifts will you give this year?