Mom gave me a journal once, green with red and yellow swirls, that says: “Cheerfulness is the atmosphere in which all things thrive.” –Johann Richter
It seems to me that when speaking of children and friendship, with all our high-sounding talk of Love and Sacrifice and Discipline and Spending Time, we sometimes forget this one small and basic principle, akin to kindness and grandmother of joy.
Big things are easier, because big things sound noble and feel important. Small, practical things, such as cracking jokes at the dinner table or smiling when you wake up in the morning–even if you’re a farmer and you’re getting older and your joints have started to ache–are easily overlooked.
Dad tells the story of when he was out on the tractor once, during a time he was battling depression, and he saw a little bird sitting on the telephone wire, just singing and singing for all it was worth.
Cheerfulness is that. It’s singing on the telephone wire.
Cheerfulness is the funny little rhymes Dad used to make when we were small, the way he would sing when helping one of us put on our jacket, “Put your one arm in here, and the other arm in here, and now we’re ready to go!”
It’s the way Mom comes out in her housecoat and says good morning with a smile on her face and the way she always says, “Oh that’s okay, I have lots of dishes,” whenever I break one. I’ve broken many.
It’s refusing to complain–or at least allowing yourself a satisfying complaint only occasionally.
It’s getting in the car and driving up to clean the library after chores when it’s late and you’re tired and you wish life could be a little easier. But you don’t say that. Instead you say, “Well, I guess work doesn’t hurt us,” and you get out your headphones and listen to a story while you work, to make the time go faster.
This is cheerfulness–easy when life is easy, difficult when life grows long and boring and hard. But always necessary–like sunshine–for flowers to grow, for friendship to thrive, for children to enjoy spending time with you and to want to come back home and visit after they’ve all grown up and moved away.
Corny for someone who doesn’t have children to write about how to make friends with your children? I’m not a parent, but I have parents, and these are a few things I’ve learned from them. Every family will do things differently, and much more goes into a parent/child relationship than I can write in three short blog posts, but I’ve picked out three principles I think are important in creating an atmosphere where friendship can thrive. These principles work not only with children, but in the building of any friendship, with anyone.
In my last two posts, I wrote about freedom and honest imperfection. Today’s post on cheerfulness is the last in the series. Ada-dweeb and a-dweeb and a-dweeb and dat’s all folks!