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Posts tagged dad
We're All Just Cleaning Up Spills

She finishes her doughnut and the evidence of what she just did is all over her face and fingers. The sticky icing, the sugary dough, and those rainbow sprinkles are scattered on her skin. I wipe with a dry napkin to no avail. This will require something wet and cold. She grabs her milk and gives it an inadvertent squeeze a second too soon. Before the straw can make it to her mouth, a few drops of liquid splatter on her shirt and the edge of the table. A small pool forms from the drops and she puts one finger in the puddle, splashing and sending milk flying.

I'm sure that later tonight she'll spill some yogurt. She may knock her cup of water off the table, squeeze out too much toothpaste, or drop her tiny container of crackers. And each time, I'll stoop low, find a towel or napkin, and clean. I'll scrub and wipe and dab until the spill is gone, her world is reset, and we can all carry on as planned.

As a parent, sometimes it can feel like all you're doing is cleaning up spills.

Scratch that - as an adult, all we're all doing is cleaning up spills.

We make a glorious mess of things sometimes, don't we? We quickly long for the days when our biggest mistake was losing our ice cream and not destroying a friendship. As grownups, we can lose clients, burn bridges, and waste a reputation with a few keystrokes or misplaced words. And there we are - left with a very big mess, needing more than a paper towel to make things right.

Kids make messes every day. If we do right by them, we show them how they can be cleaned up, how dropping pretzels isn't the end of the world, and how life can continue once we've done the dirty work of working with the dirt. In that small lesson, hopefully, we can show them that taking time to clean up is a chief duty of us humans. Leaving food, toys, or clothes in disarray is no way to live. Neither is leaving a heaping mess of hearts, dreams, and legacies.

None of us admit that we're as messy as we are. Beneath very put together facades, we all have some dirt, some grime, some spillage, and some clutter. If we could just press pause on our busy lives, perhaps we'd be able to focus on stooping low and putting back together that which we've broken or spilled.

The first step is to recognize what a royal mess we've made. When we've wrecked someone (including ourselves), we need to understand the damage done and assemble what we need to make it right. The most overlooked tool in this endeavor is time, which is teaching us a brand new lesson all by itself. The spills we make as adults are rarely cleaned and tidy in the time it takes to refill a plate of granola.

It can seem like we're hopping from one spill to the next - those of us with kids and those of us without. But in this hopping we see something of our role on this planet. By making so many messes due to our day-to-day lives, taking the time to clean is as much a part of who we are as what we do when our lives are so neatly organized and presented.

My daughter looks super cute first thing in the morning, when we come downstairs dressed and matching, clothes pristine and untainted. But that's not her. She's really the girl I see at around 5 PM, after a full day of playing and painting, eating and drinking. The stains and messes she makes during the day give her the stories that will turn into memories.

Let us go on, then, and make messes. We can't live without doing so. But let us also be wise enough to clean them up each time so that we can all keep playing together.

What's Left

You get up early, work out, get ready for your day, eat breakfast, go to work, work hard, go to meetings, fight traffic, come home, eat dinner, and then you're available for your family. You know this drill, right?

It's a terrible drill.

The way we currently work isn't working. What it means is that when we come home, exhausted, our families get what's left of our time, attention, energy, and concern.

This isn't how it's supposed to be. Work isn't supposed to get our best and our family isn't supposed to be stuck with what's left.

Some days, this is just how it happens, but when it's a pattern, there's a huge problem.

Why do the people we love the most get our second-rate selves?

This doesn't mean we have to slack off at work and do our worst. But it does mean we need to step our game up when we walk in the door and see those we love.

Want to make sure you have the best to offer your family? Here are four things that work for me:

Hang up the phone before you open the door

If you use your drive home to catch up on phone calls, make sure you conclude the call before you walk in your house. Nothing says that something else is more important than blabbing into a phone when you unlock the door to your home.

Take deep breaths and say goodbye to the workday

If you're head isn't clear, your family will be the first to notice. Even if you need to hop online once dinner is over and the kids are in bed, clear your mind before you engage your family.

Change clothes

My dad did this when I was young (so did Mr. Rogers), and apparently Tina Fey (as she recalled in Bossypants) does it, too. When you come home, slip into something more comfortable. Then, you'll be perfectly dressed for crawling on the floor, going for a walk, or doing something fun and messy with the family.

Serve

Want to show your family you care? Make dinner. Tidy up. Read every book your daughter demands you read to her. Bathe the kids. Make the bed. Wash the dishes. Love often looks like cleaning up, I've learned. Prove to your family that they come first by doing anything and everything to help them.

Remember: our family deserves what's best, not what's left. Make sure you have enough in the tank for them as often as possible.

What would you add?

Any tips that help make sure you give the best to those you love the most?

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I Don't Need a Building

I don't need a building standing tall on some campus or in some city with my name on it. I don't have nearly enough money for that. I don't need volumes of books written about me, read by the masses or by the scholars. I don't have an interesting enough life for that.

I don't need a holiday named after me, where people get off work and go shopping for mattresses on sale. I don't have enough notoriety for that.

I don't need a parade held in my honor, complete with a marching band and people waving at the crowds. I don't have enough pomp and circumstance for that.

I don't need a song written about me and what I may have done to inspire someone with a guitar and a dream. I don't have nearly enough motivational qualities for that.

...

I simply want to be written on the heart of a few people, who will remember the best parts about me when I'm gone. I want my legacy not etched in stone, but marked with a life well lived.

I think I have enough me for that.

What Time is It?

My daughter has no concept of time. She's not supposed to, being all of two-and-a-half. But it quickly gets frustrating when Mommy needs to get to work or Daddy needs to take a shower and someone else wants to line up dinosaurs or watch just one more episode or go down the stairs just right with her hand on the middle rail, tiptoeing so that each foot hits each step just right all the way to the bottom and then it's Mommy's turn to do the same thing. And when this all happens, part of me knows that very soon, she'll grasp time. And then we'll be on time, right? But at what cost?

When we learn the importance of time, we lose a bit of our innocence. Time is a tool manufactured by adults in order to further develop a world where numbers make sense in the context of bank accounts and calendars. Time is one of the few overlords we let master us, unable to be emancipated form its methodical and cruel gaze. Even when we're sleeping, he's eternally at work, ticking away until it's time to get up, get dressed, go to work, go to lunch, go home, and repeat.

Meanwhile, my daughter doesn't know she gets picked up at four o'clock. She just knows that Daddy or LaLa or Mommy is here so it's time to go home and play or to get an afternoon yogurt or to go see her baby cousin. She doesn't know that noon means naptime; she just lays on her cot at school like all her other friends do after a morning full of puzzles, stories, bubbles, and tricycles.

Shame on us for letting the clock run as much of our lives as it does.

Sure, we need the rigid, impartial drill sergeant of time to make sure we get on the plane when we're supposed to and so that we can pay our bills when they're due and so that we can get to the game in time for the first pitch. But letting deadlines and alarms direct our every move - even those outside of work - is the surest path to live a life that is never yours.

When I come home each day now, I take off my watch. There's no use in knowing when it's 5:05 and then when it's 5:32 and again when it's 6:01. Each second spent looking at my watch is a second I don't spend fully engaged in building a tall Lego tower or finding all the elephants to put next to the giraffes or counting all the bouncy balls.

With each glance at the clock I'm reminded of a life that is full of obligations, when things are needed by someone else, and all that I'll need to do to make everything happen by a certain date. But when I glance up to see my daughter putting a blanket on Dumbo, I'm reminded that my legacy will have nothing to do with deadlines and everything to do with playtimes.

This isn't a reminder just for parents, that the clock shouldn't have as large a role in our lives as it does. It's a reminder for any of us who are always running late or not getting enough sleep or unable to do our best work or cutting dinner short or figuring out how to shave seconds off of an already busy day.

Every second counts, but not every second matters. The chief purpose of our lives is to put more meaning into each moment.

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The Hardest Thing About Parenting Today

I'm sure parenting was never easy. So, it's not like parents today have it harder than their parents did (or their parents did). Sure, maybe we have to lock our doors now and the threat of nuclear annihilation hangs over all our heads, but parenting a child is still fraught with challenges, whether it's a Cave Mom teaching her son to share rocks or it's a Soccer Mom teaching her daughter to share iPods. For me, the hardest thing about being a parent in 2012 is this:

To put down my f**king phone.

It's not that I'm texting friends when I should be playing Legos, or that I'm checking email when I should be reading about Curious George. When your phone is a camera and a voice recorder and a video camera and a photo editor and a blogging tool and a way to tell all the grandparents what's going on, the natural instinct is to get it all on tape (surely that expression is on it's way out). Let me record every tower, every costume, every utterance, I think, so that she'll have one heck of a rehearsal dinner video one day.

My parents didn't have the challenge of having to parent with a 4" connection to the world in their hands. Cameras were trotted out on vacation or at ballgames, never for lining up Little People or naming stuffed animals.

I don't think I can be a great parent if my daughter begins to think half of my face is usually blocked by a magical rectangle that has the ability to bring her Elmo on demand.

Dollhouse

A few weeks ago, I wrote (in one of my most popular posts ever):

Parenting – and life – happens in between online posts and updates. It happens when we least expect it. And when it does, when those memorable moments of teaching and learning and being happen, the best thing we can do is put down our phone and live as deeply and authentically as we can in that moment.

Capturing everything so we can tweet it and share it and edit it isn't living. I don't care how second nature our phone or computer usage has become or how more connected (is that even possible?) my daughter will be when she's a mom. When the need to record or document becomes greater than my need to be present, I've become more journalist than dad. 

That's not what I signed up for.

Here's to putting down our phones today until Grandma calls.

Good Parenting Happens in the In-Between

From the looks of it, we're all fantastic parents. Our Instagrams from Disney World and the Facebook albums of Easters and Christmases show smiles, laughter, hugs, and happiness. It's as if nothing goes wrong in our lives or for our families. It's easy for people to think I'm a great dad because sometimes my blog posts show that I'm willing to get dirty with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter or that I'm at her beck and call when we go out to eat. And while I'm learning myriad life lessons from this pint-sized princess, certainly we all know that for every muffin she eats happily, there's a little girl (and her dad) who gets frustrated when it's time to change a diaper, take a bath, or go to the doctor.

I don't think the good parenting we're all doing happens when we post the highlights of our lives to Facebook. It happens in between those moments.

Somewhere between your Christmas morning and the craft your child made for Valentine's Day, you were a great parent. You taught a life lesson, moved heaven and earth in order to make your kid happy, or put off what you wanted to do so they could do what they needed to do. There is no album on Facebook for that. 

At some point between the school portraits and your summer beach trip, you snuggled next to your son or daughter (or both) and watched a silly TV show. As their eyes followed the dancing monkey or uncoordinated clown, you looked over and caught the smile that was curling upwards from the corners of their mouth. You didn't take a video of it, but it's etched in your mind forever.

The times when you didn't let them have dessert because they didn't touch their vegetables? Or when they couldn't watch TV because they didn't clean their room like you asked? When they left toys lying about so you told them they'd have to clean up before they could play with a friend? When they needed to apologize to their brother before they got certain privileges back? None of those times go on Facebook. Few of those instances involved smiling. But good parenting probably happened.

Do not judge your parenting skills - or the quality of your life, for that matter - based upon what you or anyone else is putting online. Those are the highlights. That's the SportsCenter of living, not the full game with its ebb and flow, its rhythm and mistakes, its moments of terror, uncertainty, and desperation.

Facebook is an idealized representation of ourselves, how we parent, how we live, how we love. It is anything but authentic.

Parenting - and life - happens in between online posts and updates. It happens when we least expect it. And when it does, when those memorable moments of teaching and learning and being happen, the best thing we can do is put down our phone and live as deeply and authentically as we can in that moment.

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"I want to do it."

I try to help her clean the cupcake icing from in between her small and sometimes uncoordinated fingers. "I want to do it," she says as she grabs a wet wipe and gets to work.

She grunts as she attempts to pull Legos apart, blocks that I attached rather well so we could build the tower taller.

"No, Daddy. I want to do it." I watch as she struggles until she relents and whimpers, "Help!"

Putting on her pants is no longer my job. It's her exercise in independence.

"I want to do it," she tells me and she stabs one leg in and then the other, often down the same pant leg.

And so it goes with most of our daily routine. Opening the pack of crackers, turning on the TV, choosing a book for bedtime reading, lining up buttons, buckling her seat belt, cleaning up a spill, getting into her stroller, putting a clip in her hair - these are all things that she now wants to do.

Yesterday, we were coloring and she spotted some stickers. I asked her if she'd like me to take one off the page and give it to her so she could place it on her shirt.

And then she hit me with it: "No, Daddy. I need to do it."

And she was right. She did need to do it. It was time.

This is what growth looks like. It's letting people do what they need to do so that one day, when they're on their own or miles away or all grown up (or all three), they can play with stickers or clean up a mess or eat lunch or go for a walk without your constant oversight, meddling, or touch.

And while it takes the wind out of me sometimes to think about her not needing me, I know that ultimately, my duty is to teach her that she only needs herself. I'm not supposed to wipe her mouth forever. I'm just supposed to wipe off that milk mustache until she's figured out how to do it.

As a parent, I am the teacher who's fighting against the end of the semester. While traditional educators look forward to the summer break, I don't want to stop giving lessons, demonstrating how something is done. I crave her mastery, but I don't want to lose the intimacy that comes from being the ever-present helper, cleaner, teacher, and guide.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that the only way I can ever be always there is to teach her something she'll take with her forever. She'll always know me not because I'm within earshot to help wipe her fingers after eating a cupcake. The best I can do is that when she's grown and big and strong and eating a cupcake, she'll think of me and our icing faces as she takes a napkin to dab in between her slender fingers to get all the gooey sugar goodness that likes to hide when you're eating a cupcake after a long walk with someone you love.

Muffins

I picked her up from school and let her choose where we went next. All of the options started with "p" and were nearby. Pinkberry? The park? Panera? She chose the last one and off we went to get a snack. By now, she's been so many times with me that she recognizes the logo, the earth tones, the awnings, the in-store ads, and probably the smell. She knows what's inside: cookies, muffins, bagels, salads. I know what's inside, too: time together.

We pay for our food, grab a highchair, and find a table. This location is crowded with $2 customers today. There's the handful of retirees who have been here since lunch, sipping coffee (and the free refills) and reading papers, telling stories, and taking things slowly. College students are strewn about, buckling down before finals week with heavy textbooks, $1,000 laptops, and a plastic cup that always has a soft drink in it. Headphones are in, eyes are on the paper until a chat pops up on the screen, and they'll be here until the cafeteria opens in a few hours.

And then there's us. A girl and her dad, ready to eat a muffin together.

For little hands, a muffin this size is a commitment. It's an event. It's not food; it's something to do for a half hour. She grabs and lifts, takes a bite and smiles, pleased with the taste and the texture and the fact that she just did that all by herself.

Eating a Muffin

She then starts directing me, telling me where to put the fork and how to cut the muffin and to get her a cookie, too, and that she needs some water and look at what that woman has and what are those people eating and where is Mommy and look at all the crumbs and it's getting darker outside and she wants another bite and Daddy can't have any and look at the plate and move her cup and school was fun and we'll go home soon.

She does this a lot now, the little general. She orders and tells and says and states and declares and preaches and asks and demands and demands and demands. Trying to make happen something you want to make happen is hard when you're still learning the basic conventions of a spoken language. But despite her persistence and impatience and whines and begging, I listen and I do as I'm told. Because the truth is always scattered around me like college students at Panera:

In a decade or so, I'll need to beg her to go anywhere with me.

And so I take the muffin days now, complete with crumbs and commands, and store them up. I am stocking a pantry of memories that I can draw from moving forward in order to eat well on those days when I embarrass her and those days when she just doesn't feel herself and those days when she wants to be alone and those days when she doesn't like me. I will sit in a chair on those days and remember how my daughter used to eat muffins with two hands and smile and notice everything.

I will use those muffin memories to get me through that decade until she is sitting at some Panera near her campus, trying not to stare and remember as another dad does what his muffin-eating daughter tells him to do.

And then I'll still be there a decade later, perhaps when she and I together eat muffins with her child.

We need the muffins because they're so much more than food. Vacations are more than a trip. The park is more than a playground. And life is better than we realize, caught in that moment between muffin and memory.

Three Articles That Will Make You a Better Parent

Parenting is a weird task that gets easier and harder at the same time. Just when you've figured something out about taking care of your child, a new challenge crops up to remind you that you kind of suck at this. Ultimately, the best you can hope for is to parent in a way that leaves your child emotionally connected to you, feeling safe and secure, and tattoo-free until she's 18. Bedtimes, TV patterns, and toy accumulation can be flexible to keep you sane. Just make sure she doesn't get tattooed before she can vote. I've found the following three articles very helpful over the last few months as my daughter is fully two years old. She's starting to not just have opinions (mainly about how much time she'd like to spend at the park or eating ice cream) but also to forthrightly articulate them to her mother and I. I know that these momentary struggles will pass and we'll be on to other issues like potty-training, homework, driving, and tattoo prevention. So, as she grows, I'll keep the core ideas of these articles close at hand.

1) How to Parent Like the French

This article got some online traction last month in advance of a book about the same topic being released (kudos to Kottke.org for the link). The main point is that the French way of parenting (and living, I'd say) produces children that seem to better understand boundaries and behavior. French children (in comparison to American kids) seem to throw tempter tantrums less and obey parents more. The reason has to do with the boundaries and processes put in place by parents very early on so that children respect the requests made by their moms and dads. From the article:

The French, I found, seem to have a whole different framework for raising kids. When I asked French parents how they disciplined their children, it took them a few beats just to understand what I meant. "Ah, you mean how do we educate them?" they asked. "Discipline," I soon realized, is a narrow, seldom-used notion that deals with punishment. Whereas "educating" (which has nothing to do with school) is something they imagined themselves to be doing all the time.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don't pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.)

The rest of the article focuses on the need to teach delayed gratification - that kids can't have what they want when they want it all the time. It seems as if that lesson can be learned, children can grow up balanced and grounded.

2) You're Responsible for Yourself - Make Good Decisions

My friend and colleague Anderson Williams penned this piece. About to be a new dad, he reflects back on how his parents raised him and what that means for the way we collectively raise and teach youth today.

While growing up, Anderson heard constant reminders from his parents that he was to make good decisions and was ultimately responsible for those decisions he made. He remembers:

Although as a teen I may have rolled my eyes hearing these words over and over again, I knew what Mom meant, and I knew that she was reminding me of a social contract we had. I got freedom and opportunity as long as I showed that I was responsible enough to handle it.

And, I knew I would be held accountable if and when my responsibility lapsed. I also knew why. There was no question and no fight. I knew what was expected of me and I knew when I had failed those expectations. Candidly, with a teenage son, my Mom knew I would screw up. The question was how badly and how would I respond.

While teaching responsibility isn't like teaching addition, it is possible to teach it in the context of relationships. Then, the idea of accountability is introduced, which leads to any of us understanding how to make better decisions.

3) 9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn

Leo Babauta has another insightful post. As a minimalist and a father who understands the world is rapidly changing, he is working hard to homeschool - and unschool - his children. From that, he offers up nine skills that children should be learning. If a young person has these skills, she'll be able to adapt and grow in an ever-changing world. He writes:

9. Dealing with change. I believe this will be one of the most essential skills as our kids grow up, as the world is always changing and being able to accept the change, to deal with the change, to navigate the flow of change, will be a competitive advantage. This is a skill I’m still learning myself, but I find that it helps me tremendously, especially compared to those who resist and fear change, who set goals and plans and try to rigidly adhere to them as I adapt to the changing landscape. Rigidity is less helpful in a changing environment than flexibility, fluidity, flow. Again, modeling this skill for your child at every opportunity is important, and showing them that changes are OK, that you can adapt, that you can embrace new opportunities that weren’t there before, should be a priority. Life is an adventure, and things will go wrong, turn out differently than you expected, and break whatever plans you made — and that’s part of the excitement of it all.

We can’t give our children a set of data to learn, a career to prepare for, when we don’t know what the future will bring. But we can prepare them to adapt to anything, to learn anything, to solve anything, and in about 20 years, to thank us for it.

Go read his other eight suggestions. I feel better about the unpredictable future for my daughter now that I have a list of things I'd like her to learn, other that data or facts that may not be applicable in a few years' time.

4) Okay, one more good one

I was also reminded of this article I read last year, when my daughter had just turned one. In response to another online post about what a four-year-old should know, the author makes a compelling case that being able to name all the planets or having legible penmanship isn't what a four-year-old should be concentrated on knowing. Rather, a child should know that she's loved, safe, and how to imagine. Go read the rest of the recommendations.

Parenting is hard. We need ideas, resources, wisdom, and humor to do it well. Share articles you've found helpful in the comments and let's tackle this great adventure together.

The Number One Way We Fail Young People

Young people today are growing up in a world that tells them if you want to matter, you have to be famous. And they'll do anything to be famous. The easiest and quickest way to have a best selling book or keynote a major conference is to be famous or popular. Big advances and appearance fees go to those with name recognition.

The conclusion, then, is that to be seen or to make money, one needs to be famous. And without any kind of guidance, people will seek to become famous at any cost.

We don't push the idea that you can write a book and have it catch on if you have something groundbreaking to say. It's not the best stories or ideas presented most simply that get stage time at major venues. A lot of times, even in the music of film business, talent doesn't matter.

And so instead of honing a craft or finding the story within, teenagers and students base life plans on reality TV stardom. Why grind my way to the top when The Voice can catapult me there? Why learn how to write or tell a story when a few seasons of getting drunk on mTV will get me in magazines and a book deal?

I don't have an easy solution to this issue other than to tell young people that famous people don't matter (and then backing it up by ignoring people who are famous for being famous). Who matters are the people that have a lasting and meaningful impact on us. Teachers, grandparents, and change agents matter, not because they're famous, but because they are meaningful. 

If we can tell that story enough and help young people believe it, we may have a way out of the mess we've created.

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Turning 2

Two years ago today, around 5:30 in the morning, my daughter showed up. At that moment, I held 8-and-a-half pounds of awesome in my hands and knew that nothing would ever be the same again. Lots of parents say this, but life has a way of blocking out how it used to be. Because it - life - changes so much, it has a way of helping you to forget how things were. This is good and makes the present much easier to be in. By taking away the detailed memory, you're unable to truly long for it, meaning your heart can invest fully with each beat in what is now. My wife and I were married for six years before our daughter was born. In that time, we never spoke of poop. Not once. Since I became a parent, we have talked about it at least once a day. I'm sure this will change when our daughter is out of diapers, but once you start discussing your child's bowels with one another, it's hard to stop, especially since regularity is an important part of parenting.

A night in is just as good as a night out. In fact, coming home from work and changing into fleece pants and a T-shirt so you can do puzzles, color, and count things on the floor can be as invigorating and tiring as drinking all night.

There is nothing like hearing someone call you dad for the first time. Or every time she sees you.

Your mind will amaze and scare you thinking about what you'd do for your child.

Parenting gets easier and harder at the same time. I don't know of any other role that offers this. Mastering one challenge or skill gives you the confidence to face the next one, which you'll fail at miserably. So miserably, in fact, that you'll hope no one at DCS finds out because they'll come take your kid from you.

If your child is two, happy, and loved, then you're doing everything right.

Being a Dad

The biggest reason you have to embrace the now - other than that you can't really remember the past fully - is because it will be gone. Her crying for milk, her impatience at waiting for the DVD to load, her waking up in the middle of the night in need of a pacifier, her struggle to put together words so you understand what she needs, her making a mess of every meal, her need to have what she wants when she wants it - this will all be replaced one day with a daughter who acts like she doesn't need you, who wants you gone when her friends show up, and who will pretend like you're not important.

So I will take today's struggles. They are laced with moments of pride, love, happiness, and joy. And I will fight hard to remember those parts lest the present dare me to forget them so that one day - in another present - I will be able to hold the best of the past and all the hope for the future together, knowing that they, too, manifest themselves in her. My love for who she was, who she is, and who she shall become is greater than any of today's challenges and is what will always make me her dad.

Being a Dad

Just Jump

It was getting dark, but the minute my daughter saw the trampoline in Aunt Moo's (that's Aunt Molly to everyone else) backyard, she had a singular mission: jump like hell.

My daughter has just learned how to take off - how to actually leave the ground with both feet when jumping, whether it's in her room, on a bed, on our couch, or on Aunt Moo's trampoline. The first time she did this, upstairs in her room, she caught herself by surprise. Temporarily weightless and not knowing when she'd be landing, her feet hit the floor, her knees buckled, and she crashed on the carpet near her bed. Once she determined she was okay, off she went again, leaving her feet.

When she jumps on the trampoline, flanked by family, watching, cheering, and guarding, there is no better moment for her. She leaves her feet and comes back down on the elastic mat, which makes her want to rise high again and again until she falls with arms out in front of her to brace herself. The dark grime of the trampoline stains her hands, but when she's jumping, she doesn't care if she's clean or whether her hair is unkempt, or what her pants looks like. There is joy in her jumping.

How to be more joyful

When did we stop jumping? When did rules and convention and customs demand that we stop jumping, stay clean, play it safe, and take the joy out of living? When did we decide that it was somehow better to wade along the shoreline when all the while the wild ocean was beckoning?

I hope that very soon - next week, even - you take time to jump. Do something because you love it. Find a family member and laugh. Don't wear a watch and get lost in a book or a story or a nap. Do something until you're out of breath and go to bed later fully exhausted because you packed a day full of living.

There is risk in the jumping, for sure. But unless you're willing to leave your feet once in a while, you'll never know the sheer joy of flying.