Has someone ever said something to you that made you stop in your tracks? Because you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what they said is right. And you just know that the words you just heard will change your life.
That happened to me recently. For weeks, the stress of getting out of the house in the morning was rising. I felt the clenching of my jaw. The tension in my shoulders, which for me get moved upward and remain static in a shrug position until I catch on and take a moment to breathe and release. The uncomfortable heaviness in the chest. This is how I experience stress and frustration.
My mornings start early. I’ve got lunches to make, two kids to clothe, a cat to care for, bags to pack, breakfast to make and serve, all before I get myself ready to get out the door. There are two separate drop off destinations for my children. Navigating through Long Island morning school traffic is usually enough in itself to cause stress. Doing so while trying to get the three of us where we need to be, safely and timely, it’s been causing some friction for me. I found myself rushing and snapping and feeling agitated. Getting cut off by rude and reckless drivers just about every single morning adds to it. To be fair, I’ve let it happen. I chose that reaction. I could have chosen a different reaction.
As a dad, I do my best not to show that side to my kids too often. They don’t need it and they certainly don’t deserve it. I do my best to practice gratitude because I’ve been blessed in so many ways. But I am human and make mistakes. Over the past month, I’ve made more than I care to admit. I’ve outwardly displayed frustration, been snippy, felt rushed (and made others feel rushed) and said one or two things out loud that I wished I hadn’t. Kids see and hear it all.
One recent sunny morning, I had just dropped my daughter off at day care and was ready to take my son to his preschool. Just as I pulled out of the drive, I apologized to him for being impatient. He didn’t do anything wrong. In his little voice, which is filled with the wisdom of a child who lives life right, he sweetly and patiently said “Maybe you have a bad germ in you”. Brake. Car in park. Say that again please buddy. He did. I asked him why he said it and he replied “because you’re always frustrated in the morning time”. With that, my life changed. Immediately, the stress of the mornings was put into perspective and I knew right there how to handle it. And it’s not just morning time stress, it can be any stressor at any time of day.
I knew what he said was right. Unequivocally. I wanted him to repeat it because it was simple and brilliant. Truly brilliant. I needed to hear it again because I was enlightened. Here I am, a 40-something who successfully coaches people on personal development. I wrote an eBook on self-improvement. When I needed a hand with a problem, it wasn’t my experience or an experienced, expensive coach that came through. It was my 4-year old son. I love how it all happened! I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve long said that kids live life right. They know happy. They know joy. They know play and they spend almost all of their time doing things they love to do. That’s the way to do it. My son and other kids his age- they don’t know complicated. They know fun and free. And now, every time I find myself stressing about something that isn’t worthy of the effort, I say to myself “I have a bad germ in me”. Then, I visualize the germ being quickly eradicated from me. I smile. Then get on with my day. I haven’t felt an ounce of that stress since. My mornings are so much more enjoyable. I'm showing the good stuff again. It literally changed my life and how I view stressors. It works. Like magic!