It's easy (and natural) to constantly look forward to the next holiday, the next birthday, the next big event. In fact, as soon as one is over, my 8-year-old son asks how long it'll be until that holiday returns. I know we could spend so much of our life looking ahead, waiting for that next major activity, but I want to make sure that we don't miss all of the little moments that make each day beautiful. Because I've always believed that the "filler" in between the big stuff is where memories are created, relationships are nurtured, and daily life is truly lived. So, I encourage our family to celebrate those little moments by doing a few key things as often as possible.
Express gratitude daily.
I'm guilty of falling into negative attitudes: I woke up late, the kids are whining, we're rushing, nothing seems to be going right. Usually in the middle of this downward spiral I become aware of what's happening, mostly because the children are excellent mirrors for my own behavior. We try to counter this negativity and complaining by trying to voice more positivity, especially in front of and to the kids:
"I'm so thankful that we get to eat such a delicious dinner."
"Look how beautiful all of those blooms on the trees are."
"Wow, our blankets are so soft. I love having a cozy bed to sleep in every night."
Eventually, the kids start to notice these little things, too. They notice when they've laughed a lot, or when we cooked a meal together. They start to voice their gratitude and point out the little things that make each day special. It's a heartwarming celebration of the little bits of good in every day.
Point out something positive.
I try to nurture empathy and compassion in my kids in a variety of ways. One of which is the ability to notice the successes of others. This goes beyond achievement-based successes, like good grades or winning a game. I want them to notice when someone else feels proud of what they're doing, so they can bolster that pride. Maybe we point out how joyful his 4-year-old sister was about a painting she created, or how fast she ran to the car, or how silly her laugh sounded. And sometimes it means acknowledging when someone else "wins" even though that might mean we lose. I still want them to learn to celebrate accomplishments for the people they care about, even if it is disappointing, because I'm also trying to help them understand that winning or losing doesn't define their self-worth.
Slow down and notice the little things.
The biggest ways that we celebrate the little things in our family is by being present and attentive. Life is fast and busy, and a whole day, or even a whole week, can blow by without realizing what you ate for meals that day, what your children wore, what you did. So we always try to slow down and notice those little things. If my kids are watching a screen, I join them. We talk about what they're watching, what they like about it, which characters they love. I ask them about their friends, their favorite foods. I kiss them in passing or ruffle their hair. A small smile usually spreads across their lips even if no one verbally says a word. That's how we celebrate life: by being present and allowing the gratitude for our moments together now to wash over us. It isn't always possible, but when it is, it's pure magic.