The Secret to Raising Happy Children

When I created Awesomely Awake a year ago, I wanted to tell families to live more.

I just seriously reject this notion that we are put here on this amazing earth to work more than we laugh, to work more than we explore, to work more than we spend time with family.

And so I’ve written many posts that attempt to take us down the path of awake living. My newsletters often talk about how I refuse to ever again have a case of the Mondays. How I want to play hide and seek. Or just let go.

All of this was good and fine.

And then last week I read this post on Free Range Kids.

BOOM.

Everything I’ve been thinking about, everything I’ve been writing about — completely solidified.

The author, who lost her daughter at 9 years old, writes:

My father made a remark, while we were still in the hospital and the grief was devastatingly raw.  But it’s sticking with me, and I am finding some solace in it:  “She might only have been nine years old, but she lived 20 years in those nine.”  What he meant was that she had done a lot, experienced a lot and just..LIVED…while she was here.  She rode horses.  She rode motorcycles with her dad (always with proper safety equipment).  She went to old-fashioned church camps where they played in mud pits and made their own slip-n-slides and jumped in the lake and roasted marshmallows on fires with sticks.  She played competitive hockey.  She practiced Karate and Jujitsu.  She rode her bike to her friend’s house, a mile away.  By herself.

I’ve written “what if we die tomorrow” posts but I also spend a lot of time writing about letting children be children.

Her letter makes me want to say YES to everything. Naturally, that’s not possible. But, upon reflection, I realize we have been allowing our girls to live fully and showing them how to stay awake to this amazing life we are living.

Just let them be children.

Isn’t that the best kind of childhood? Isn’t that the SECRET to raising happy children?

How are we doing that? Well, the phrase risk-taker comes up daily at our house. They have a true love for all four seasons. And know it’s OK to make amazing mistakes. They’ve written countless love notes. And, they’ve stood in awe of pink skies, double rainbows and amazing full moons.

And yet  I was still left wondering, “Are we letting them live enough. I mean really live?”

What if they don’t grow up to be nine?

Or 18?

Gasp. My heart stops just thinking about the notion.

And yet, I know that living doesn’t begin when you’re 18 no more than it begins at 65.

Living is right now. At the first breath. At this very second.

Just let them be children.

A few years ago, my family began an Adventure Journal. It’s a very dusty — and I don’t even know where it is — journal that we got with the movie “Up” that I so really wanted to keep up with but haven’t. I wish we’d written more things down in it. I wish we’d put a little more time in the living in the now and less time waiting … Waiting on the right job, the right income, the right season, the right weather, the right alignment between the stars and the sun …

The letter the mother wrote shares the highest order of wisdom a mother can pass along to another — seize the RIGHT NOW and let our kids LIVE.

Just let them be children.

We don’t need a journal or a Pinterest board or any organized activity to live. Adventure happens naturally for kids — we just have to open our eyes to it and take a leap of faith that they will be OK.

My family may not get to Disney World anytime soon but wow have our girls had a full life so far …

  • Climbing trees
  • Painting canvases
  • Traveling up 4K feet on a mountain
  • Hiking down 4K feet from a mountain.
  • Swimming under water like a fish.
  • Holding kitty cats all day for the sheer pleasure of it.
  • Building a snow fort.
  • Roller Skating.
  • Making good friends.
  • Going on road trips more than 1500 miles full of laughter — and tears.
  • Putting on dance shows.
  • Swinging on a high bar and jumping on a trampoline.
  • Realizing they love gymnastics.
  • Learning to play piano.
  • Learning that they hate soccer.
  • Jumping in mud puddles.
  • Honoring and respecting religions around the world.
  • Counting to 200.
  • Realizing they can write more than 100 words.
  • Reading their first book.
  • Climbing the Rocky steps in Philadelphia.
  • Riding in a cab.
  • Took wagon rides.
  • Going creek-wading.
  • Making magnificent messes.
  • Building sand castles, wooden castles and drawing castles in the sky.
  • Writing poetry. Tons of it.
  • Lazing about in a hammock.
  • Giving live presentations in front of classmates.
  • Helping the needy.
  • Singing in a choir.

This list is just a short list of all the great things my girls have experienced in their 6 years. I can’t wait to revisit this list each year so that I can inspire them to keep living life to the fullest as they get older. How about you? Can you list a few amazing life experiences your children have had so far? What’s left to add to that list before it’s too late and they grow up and leave and work takes over their lives?

Until then … carpe diem.

Carpe diem.

18 Responses to The Secret to Raising Happy Children

  1. Joy Popow Smith says:

    Amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Stacy Roland says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. It is so true, I have lost my Dad a year and a half ago – he was only 55. Just before he died, he told me to look at my daughter who was 6 months old and that she was what life was all about – nothing else really matters. I took that to heart, his basic philosophy upon his death bed was that life is about: Living, Loving, and Being Happy. I have applied that principle in all aspects of my life, and try to enjoy each moment to the best of my ability. Again thanks for sharing!

  3. Breeze Watson says:

    It pales in comparison but — this is why I let my boys get mohawk haircuts. They're fun. They're crazy. They don't hurt anyone and more often than not, they invite compliments. And clothes wash — or they don't but they outgrow them anyway. And kids are waterproof in puddles and rain and playing in the sink. Life is fragile — still, we try not to live in fear but in hope and have a good and memorable time while we're on the ride.

  4. Jordan Karch DeHaven says:

    "Living is right now. At the first breath. At this very second."
    I just fell in love with a married woman, I think. This is so beautiful!

  5. Ashley says:

    Thank you for speaking whats in our hearts! Nice reminder of why we live they way we live because tomorrow is not granted….. My girls are living but maybe I could do.more of it myself! Role model;) thank you!!

  6. Liz Gurnee says:

    Right on Shawn :) We've flown on airplanes, written our names in the sand with seashells, gotten lost on a hike with great friends, made countless craft projects and love notes, danced in the dark with flashlights every time the TransSiberian Orchestra's version of "Carol of the Bells" comes on the radio, just to name a few ;) Thanks for helping me realize.

  7. Hillary Kulia Houseman says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Wonderful post = let them be little and let them play I say!

  9. Elizabeth Frye Burnworth says:

    Wonderful. Thank you. A very timely read for me today. Keep rocking on!

  10. Laura says:

    Nodding my head. Wiping away tears after reading that dear story. High fives for the LIFE you are living with your children.

  11. Jena says:

    Love, love, love this.

  12. Michelle Lewsen says:

    This is absolutely wonderful and true. Thank you.

  13. Sarah Maria Vandré says:

    So true and sometimes we forget to live ourselves…

  14. [...] Be kind. 8. Notice the beauty of your day. 9. Become a peaceful parent. 10. Trust myself more. 11. Let my children live fully. 12. Be happier at home. 13. Set effective, loving rules. 14. Watch less TV. 15. Read more. 16. Be [...]

  15. jennifer says:

    I just LOVE this. Thank you.


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Shawn Fink - Abundant MamaFrom Our Founder

I created The Abundant Mama Project to inspire overwhelmed, busy mothers to slow down and let go of the worries and concerns that are holding them back from experiencing joyful motherhood. Read More »

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