A few Augusts ago, my husband, amateur astronomer, decided that we as a family should watch the Perseid meteor shower. Snuggling with my hubby and kids as we looked for shooting stars did sound like a good time, so I readily agreed. It was a warm clear night, and as we watched the skies, pretty soon one of us would point and say, “There’s one!” “I see it!” or “Ooh! That was a big one! Did you see it?”and other various exclamations. My husband and I patiently pointed out the difference between the slow moving satellites and the streaking meteors to our oldest daughter. Then we explained the difference between the satellites and the airplanes we could see flying over us. She quickly understood the difference, and spent most of her time pointing out the various satellites moving in a slow arc over our heads. Our son, who was almost four at the time, also got into the action by shouting, “I see a happy light!”
Now sometimes as parents, we have no clue what our kids are talking about, especially our three year olds. I don’t think I am alone in this. The first night we watched the meteor shower, my husband and I just shrugged our shoulders and played along. When my son wanted to go “watch the happy lights” again a second night, we agreed, thinking that he had decided in his 3-year-old vocabulary that “shooting stars” and “happy lights” were the same thing. That's not a bad association at all. It wasn’t until we had settled into our star watching that we understood what he meant. Our daughter kept up her role of pointing out the satellites, my husband and I tried to direct our children’s attention to the shooting stars, and my son again said excitedly, “I see a happy light!” We still had no clue what he was talking about. Then in his next statement, everything made sense. “Aww,” he said sympathetically, “there’s another sad one.”
When we were patiently teaching about satellites, he heard “sad lights.” Now my son is a very positive and optimistic little boy. Instead of looking for shooting stars and “sad lights,” he wanted to look instead for the “happy lights.” This is in keeping with his wonderful loving nature. When playing at playdates, he learned early that trading toys with his friends was more fun than grabbing things away, and that taking turns was just as much fun as being the sole person to play with the wanted item in question. That August, my husband and I were trying to teach our children about some of the wonders of the night sky; instead, we were taught by this small boy a more valuable lesson: look for the happy.
This is an easy and hard lesson to apply. Many things in life are bad or good depending on your perspective. I can complain about my baby’s night wakefulness, or I can be happy that I have some precious bonding time with my son, and, as an added perk, I don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to make sure he is still breathing! My daughter can complain about having to pick up her room or she can be grateful that she has clothes and toys—and even her own room! I think you get the picture. Our trials can make us or break us, depending on how we choose to look at things. It all comes down to perspective.
This may sound a little preachy, but I would encourage you to try it. The next time you are caught up in stress, bogged down with the no-fun, mundane details of your life—try to change your perspective. It does make a difference. Look for the happy. You’ll be glad you did.
And that’s the other side.