What If Sharing a Little Candy Helps Us Feel Less Isolated?

More often than not, our connection is one of silent engagement. But there is beauty and necessity in communicating with open intention.

I have a hate relationship with sugar. I do, however, subscribe to a life of balance, so when my child begs for a box of artificially flavored sugar, I understand that saying yes from time to time means the possibility of fewer binge sessions later on in his life.

I remind myself that I grew up in the generation of fast food and TV dinners. I ate food that I wouldn’t feed my dog. Today, I shudder at minute-made food and drive thru signs. So there’s hope.

During the week I headed over to World Market, one of my guilty pleasures. I like to meander through different “lands” and take in pillows, textiles, textures and more.

My little YouTuber, on the other hand, is less than thrilled with such things. I can hardly blame him. We aren’t building-block-like structures, discovering mysterious places or mining for emeralds after all. Shopping these days is a compromise for both of us. I move faster than I’d like, and the mere thought of walking in to a store brings on teenage groans from my seven-year-old.

On this particular outing, I jogged through aisles, dreamed up design vignettes in my head, and realized that peaceful, indulgent shopping days were years away – or at least relegated to weekends when Dad is on watch.

Eventually, we came upon the food section. Mesmerized by candy aisles that would make Willy Wonka swoon, my son weaved in and out as though he was up against the clock. My son’s powers of persuasion are strong, and I knew I wouldn’t be leaving without something half eaten before we reached check-out.

Only a short plea later and the “Jelly Belly BeanBoozled” game box found its way into the cart. Part game, the box is filled with a variety of 20 flavored jelly beans, or 10 pairs that are identical to one another in appearance, but not in flavor.

The green jelly bean could be “Booger” or “Juicy Pear,” while the brown jelly bean could be “Canned Dog Food” or “Chocolate Pudding.” Spin the dial and eat the designated color. Your taste buds, or perhaps your gag reflex, do the rest.

We headed towards the check-out area. My son wasted no time and challenged the 20-something cashier to a spin of the wheel. To my delight and surprise, he was up to the challenge and more than willing to play along. Like a multi-tasking beast, the cashier scanned the few items I’d collected, spun the wheel, and fearlessly popped stomach-turning flavors.

“Oh man, ‘Dead Fish’!”

Before long, the bagger was involved, and then the person behind us in line. This was not simply a game; this was a crowd pleaser and a unifier. Once silent strangers had now become child-like thrill seekers, daring one another to try yet another flavor. My son was having an absolute blast running the show, ordering participants to spin and select their jelly beans. The joy was infectious. We laughed at each other’s palette misfortunes.

I had several other pit stops to make that day, and our new “BeanBoozled” box accompanied us across every storefront threshold. We wouldn’t be in a store for more than a minute before my son spotted another victim.

The game was fast becoming a phenomenal ice-breaker. It also allowed momma time to take a few distraction-free laps, while my little man entertained himself, and many others, with “Barf” or “Peach,” “Stinky Socks” or “Tutti Fruitti.”

Little did I know how much entertainment this purchase would add to our otherwise bland, errand-filled, run-of-the-mill day. My son didn’t hesitate to reach out to complete strangers. He didn’t question the rules of social engagement or worry about potentially awkward interactions. He was on a roll, enthusiastic and inclusive, never ill at ease, and as a result, the strangers he invited to play willingly participated.

Today, we live in a lonelier, more isolated world, punctuated by texts, Facebook “friends,” and photographic storytelling. More often than not, our connection is one of silent engagement. I am not ready to abandon these platforms. They each have their place. But that day I was reminded of the beauty and necessity of connecting with people in a random and intentional way.

How delightful it was to hear strangers laugh together in shared physical space. No viral videos, no “likes,” no tags. Just joy, and my son facilitating the proceedings with adorable charm.

This is the stuff of magic. Maybe we all just need to get together and share a few more jelly beans.

4 Practices From Around the World To Help Make Parenting More Joyful

Parenting differs greatly from culture to culture. In each, there are ways to find the joy in raising kids.

Any sleep-deprived and frazzled parent can tell you that parenting is hard.

But we are not meant to do it alone, it takes a village. It’s that village that helps keep us sane; the village that reaches out and offers to help tired mamas in the trenches of parenthood.

Parenting villages in every country can be vastly different, each with its own set of parenting techniques and best practices. How do parents in other places bring joy to parenting? 

4 Parenting Practices from Around the World 

Denmark // Hygge

The Danish word hygge (pronounced “hooga” ) roughly translates to “cozy time.”

It’s the practice of creating an inviting, warm atmosphere in which people focus on each other. Hygge can be experienced by sitting around a warm fireplace and reading a book together, casually chatting while playing catch in the yard, having a family dinner together, or taking a walk around the block, hand in hand.

Applying the concept of hygge – that is, intentionally focusing on your child – has huge benefits. When we place our focus on our children (iPhones all tucked away), their love tanks are refueled. When they feel loved and secure, children are much happier. Happier children make parenting much easier. It’s no surprise that the Danes are considered the happiest people in the world.

France // Let the guilt go

Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bebe focuses on her experience as an American parent living in Paris, France.

While Druckerman offers several tidbits of French parenting wisdom, one piece that seems to be particularly lacking in America is the freedom from guilt. In America, mothers are so analyzed and critiqued that we have begun to harbor guilty feelings about everything.

We leave our baby and go to work? We feel guilty. We stay at home with our baby but make less money? We feel guilty. We buy only organic foods but at the expense of the already-tight budget? We feel guilty. We buy convenient pre-packaged food because we are too tired after a 12-hour shift? We feel guilty.

No matter what we do, the guilty feelings sneak in and make us doubt ourselves and parenting abilities. The massive guilt prohibits us from truly savoring parenthood. French mothers, however, do not let the guilty feelings overwhelm them. Making well-informed decisions out of love for our babies – that’s what matters.

So what if you need a night out with your friends to regroup? It doesn’t make you a bad mother – it makes you human. Stop feeling guilty. You’re doing just fine.

Italy // Slow down

I’ve visited Italy on several occasions and I witnessed a slower, more relaxed pace of life. Dinners can last for hours while families relax and enjoy each other’s presence. Slowing down indeed can make parenting more enjoyable.

Take a walk around the block at your child’s pace. What more do you see? Try to see the world through your child’s eyes, and you’ll understand your child more.

Slowing down is more than just a leisurely stroll. Slow down your whole life. Lighten up on scheduled activities. A three-year-old doesn’t really need to take an advanced toddler cooking course. Savor life.

Mexico // Saludar bien

Mexican parents instill in their children the importance of properly greeting an adult – with a kiss on the cheek.

While we don’t necessarily have to kiss each adult we greet, the point is: greeting each other is part of being polite. Saludar bien reinforces, “You are important to me. I will take the time to say hello to you.” It teaches awareness of others, respect, and lays the foundation for cultivating friendships. 

Parenting is hard, yes. No one person, place, or culture has all of the answers. But we can learn from each other, and that makes all the difference.

My Kids Make Me Cry

I was not always a crier. But parenting brings out raw emotion, and now I cry at almost anything.

Prince William recently went on record to say that now that being a parent has made him “more emotional.”

Really? Me too. I embarrass myself with how easily tears come to my eyes nowadays. I was not always a crier. In fact, my grandmother said she could never tell what I was thinking since I showed no emotion. (She never knew, but that comment hurt my feelings.)

Now, I cry at almost anything.

Naturally, I cry when others do, at big things (when a loved one dies, when feeling extreme pain) and more trivial things (the predictable rom-com, the sad novel), as well as at happy occasions: weddings, graduations, and almost any other time my children are recognized for their achievements. However, I also cry when it is unexpected, which brings funny looks (and suppressed giggles from my kids).

Like many people, I cried during parts of the Hunger Games. But I think I cried more. It started when Katniss volunteers as tribute, in her sister’s stead. The unselfish love she has for her sister had tears running down my face when I was reading the book. It went on from there. Needless to say, I couldn’t see any of these movies in the theater (and am impatiently waiting for the last one to be released on DVD; no one needs to see that ugly crying face in public).

Sitcoms (yes, situation comedies) have also been known to make me cry, especially when a parent/child relationship is involved. I also have been known to laugh until I cry, but that is really a different thing altogether. Sappy advertising gets me, even ones featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales that appear during the Super Bowl.

Several years ago, my daughter had a part in the musical Titanic at our high school. I happened to work in the school at the time and by chance was in the building the day of the preview, so I joined the mostly student audience to watch the first act. There she was, in a yellow gown, dancing among the other first-class passengers; the characters were enjoying themselves, blissfully unaware of what was to come. There I sat, with tears streaming down my face, trying to wipe them away with no one seeing. Now this show tells a tragic story, and tears are acceptable and probably expected at the end, but, this was not the sad part of the story. Though it could have been argued that I was emotional at how happy they all were, not knowing what was to come, that was not the case at all. I was crying because my daughter, whom I had carried for nine months, birthed and then cared for throughout childhood was dancing on a stage, looking beautiful and all grown up.

School voice recitals have been another problem for me. Here I have sat and listened to talented children (and not only mine) sing songs of their choosing. Most of the music is contemporary. Ballads of course tend to be sappy, but the choices are also often upbeat. Watching these children whom I have known since their elementary years (or in some cases toddlerhood) sing with such presence and emotion can be nostalgic. Make it my child, and I am, again, trying to keep my cries quiet and unobtrusively wipe the tears so as not to embarrass (them or myself).

As I mentioned, my tears are not reserved for my children alone.

I spent many years as a Girl Scout leader, and from the start, had a group of middle through high school girls. As a result, many years required a goodbye at the end of the school year, as one or more went off to college. Each year, I planned my part in our ceremony and almost without fail, I cried. In most cases, it was because I was seeing these girls, younger (likely as their parents were), and marveling at how grown up they had become. I also mourned their loss, as I had grown to know and love them as individuals and enjoyed spending time with them. The girls would chuckle at my emotion, as did some of the parents who were guests at these ceremonies. Last year, the girls not only anticipated it, they explicitly stated that the time had come for me to cry.

Parenting brings out raw emotion.

You see the world differently as a parent. Like many other things, it doesn’t make any sense until and unless you experience it. (Who am I kidding? It doesn’t make any sense, period.) You feel emotions more intensely than you could have previously imagined. I am not saying that all parents are criers, but emotions seem to hit harder and affect you differently than they did before kids. For years, I have tried to hide this fact from the world. Now that the heir to the throne of England is admitting it, I guess I can too.

Syrian Children Playing in the Snow Will Melt Your Frozen Heart

If these Syrian children can enjoy the snow, you can too.

As Jonas looms large – the blizzard, not Nick – the mid-Atlantic seaboard is making preparations for what is expected to be a storm of historical proportions.

If you love wintery excitement, this storm could be the ultimate adventure. If you hate winter, this storm will no doubt challenge your resolve.

Love it or hate it, everyone can appreciate these joyful scenes of Syrian children finding playful refuge in the snow. And maybe take a little heed on how to weather a storm.

 

Source: YouTube

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