“The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.” (Marjorie Pay Hinckley)
While I had heard this quote in college, it wasn’t until I was a mom that it really hit home.
Cause motherhood is full of moments where you can either break down into tears. Or break out laughing.
Like when the house is a disaster, one of your kids just peed on the floor, another is screaming, and you suddenly realize that the dinner you’ve been preparing might be on fire.
Then the doorbell rings.
And you’re not wearing pants.
As moms trying to balance a zillion things at once, we’re faced with regular catastrophes. The kind that can make us want to curl up in a ball and eat a bag of gummy bears.
But how we respond to these daily catastrophes doesn’t just affect our mood and outlook. It actually determines how our children handle these situations.
WE’RE THE MOOD THERMOSTATS OF OUR HOMES
Like the thermostats that control the temperature of our homes, as moms we’re basically the thermostats controlling the mood. We set the tone. And how we react to challenges (or successes) often determines how everyone else will react.
Simply choosing to laugh when disaster strikes can have a MASSIVE impact on everyone around you.
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(No pressure, right?)
I didn’t need to become a mom to learn that lesson. I learned that while tromping through the mud in the pitch-black mountains of Honduras.
TESTY TEENAGERS IN THE HILLS OF HONDURAS
As a senior in high school, I went with a group of youth (and some families) on a humanitarian trip to Honduras. Towards the end of the trip we went to visit a remote orphanage in the mountains.
Our group, consisting of 40-50 people, was spread out through several rickety old 12-passenger vans. And after about 10 hours non-stop on bumpy dirt roads, we were finally about to arrive at our destination: a rural hotel deep in the mountains.
And boy were we ready to get there.
After spending a week building homes and a long day in a cramped van, our bodies were completely exhausted.
We were also starving since we’d hardly eaten anything all day.
But it wasn’t all bad.
In fact, the husband and wife in the front seats of our van were some of the happiest, most jolly people I’d ever encountered.
Even as an exhausted (and hangry) teenager, I had to admit that they were a downright joy to be around.
Their positive attitudes and good humor kept the van full of teenagers from turning into tired hormonal rage monsters.
Just when someone was about to snap, the husband would say something hilarious and the wife would start with her infectious laugh. And we couldn’t help but all join in.
But by this time after a long day in the car, tummies rumbling and nerves shot, we had hit our absolute limit.
And so we were positively gleeful when we could finally see the distant flickering lights of the hotel through the pitch-black darkness.
In that glorious moment, I could practically hear the Hallelujah chorus.
Relief–with its warm food and real beds–was finally in sight after what felt like the longest day of my life.
And that lasted about 5 seconds.
Because before we knew it, the van was stuck in the mud. Late at night. In the rural mountains of Honduras.
A quarter mile from the hotel.
But just as everyone was about to LOSE. THEIR. $%#@. COMPLETELY. booming laughter rang through the van. The couple up front had busted a gut.
Because of course after over 10 hours in the van on terrible roads our whole group would get stuck in the mud and have to walk through sludge in the dark to get to the hotel.
We were powerless to resist.
And within seconds, we were all gasping for air and laughing about how hilarious our predicament was.
We were laugh-crying as we gathered our bags from the van, and trudged through the night ankle deep in mud to the hotel we could see as a beacon in the distance.
While we were in great spirits, the group members in the other vans on the other hand…they didn’t fare so well.
In fact, they were downright surly.
It’s like they’d all just gotten off a trans-Atlantic flight after sitting between a screaming child and an old guy with terrible gas.
With furrowed brows and icy scowls, they alternated between grumbling to themselves and yelling at one another.
However, we were all giggling and joking as we tried to balance our bags on our heads and trudge through the sludge in the darkness.
CHOOSE TO LAUGH (OR TURN INTO THE HULK)
The difference couldn’t have been more stark between the two different groups. Identical situation, but two entirely different attitudes.
Was it simply because we were just all saint-like teenagers with naturally sunny dispositions?
Frankly, we weren’t anything special. We were just like the kids in the other vans.
The only real difference between our groups was the perpetually happy chaperone couple driving our van.
THEY were the reason that we kept a positive attitude. Because their positive attitude was contagious.
They set the tone and we were helpless to fight their humor and happiness.
Their powerful example has stuck with me all these years.
And I wish I could say that I always manage to set a fun and happy tone in my house.
But I can’t.
Because making that choice to laugh instead of cry is sometimes really hard.
I get cranky faaar more than I’d like to admit. Usually around the time I’m trying to wrangle the kids to doing homework while running around trying to get dinner on the table.
So it’s right when my husband walks in the door after a long day that I finally burst like a pinata and take my frustration out on anything moving.
Instead of calmly guiding the kids to clean, I exclaim that “I’m the only one who ever does anything around here!”
And then dramatically declare that “I’m just the maid!”
Which accomplishes nothing (other than putting everyone else in a bad mood).
So how can we make that choice to laugh?
How can we keep a happy mood in our homes when everything seems to be going wrong and we’re ready to either scream or cry into our pillows?
Here are a couple tips to turn challenging moments around and create a good mood in your home.
WHEN MOM STRUGGLES HIT
1) Pause and take a deep breath
Never underestimate the power of getting some good old oxygen to your brain. Even one deep breath is going to make it easier to think clearly and choose laughing over crying (or screaming).
I love Dr. Becky Bailey’s (author of the fantastic parenting book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline) strategy to Be a S.T.A.R.
When you’re about to blow, you Stop, Take a deep breath, And Relax. Then you are better equipped to respond the way to want to the challenges in your day.
(Here are 4 deep breathing strategies you can teach your kids!)
When my kids are grumpy and working my last nerve, I find that snuggling them often yields awesome results.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Snuggle my crabby whining child? How about a nice little visit to time out?”
But here’s the thing: when are kids are acting out, it’s often because they’re in the lower centers of their brain. They’re in fight or flight mode.
When we snuggle, we build connections that “bring our children back.” We help get their brains into a thinking and reasoning zone.
I have found time and again that when my kids are driving me nuts, they usually just need some love and affection.
Just try it out. See what more snuggles can do for you.
THE MOOD IS UP TO YOU
Remember mama, when the going gets tough the mood is up to you. Think about the next time you are most likely to be faced with frustration (at our house, it’s getting to school on tine and dinner time). Think now about how you will respond when the going gets tough.
Because how you respond determines how your kids will respond. If you can laugh and take it in stride, your kids can learn to do the same.
What are your strategies to keep your cool when you’re about to lose it? Respond in the comments!
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