Monday, August 30, 2010

Operation Smile


At the end of last summer while leaving our favorite park on a warm and fire-fly light night, I felt inspired by the beauty of the night and our high spirits to make my kids' childhoods perfect. Idyllic. It was all up to me; I could completely control it by simply being a perfect and idyllic mother. It was just a matter of taking it day by day. So exciting!

Well, a year later, that hasn't quite worked out as I hoped. My kids and I have been a little bit grumpy over this summer. There has been too much yelling, crying, threatening, writhing on the ground and even mild cursing around this house. The boys have been a bit grouchy, too. After watching Andrew melt down and throw an absolute fit over basically nothing, and just before I threw my own retaliatory tantrum (you know, to fix the situation, obviously), I decided it was time to turn things around and thought that maybe, just maybe, there might be a more effective response. I knew it sounded crazy, but I thought it just might work.

I decided to just plaster a huge smile on my face. Never mind that it was fake. My kids aren't that perceptive yet. I forced them into the car, we raced off to a park to blow off steam, and, after I was able to coax-threaten Andrew from the car, I put my plan into action.
As a short aside, Operation Smile has been floating around in the back of my consciousness for some time. I have come to realize that my face is not one of those that gives me away; worse, it is one of those that disseminates misinformation about me. I have had women apologize to me for expressing their love for the Savior or their goals to hold weekly family nights because somehow my face acted like it was offended by their admirable feelings and ambitions. I knew in the midst of one such humiliating apology that my face needed to shape up. I had another occassion to see that O.S. was necessary when reflecting upon some childhood memories of adults who always seemed, from the set of their expressions, tense or unhappy. I don't want my meaness of my natural slack expression to indicate to my kids that I am not having a wonderful time being their mom.

Anyway, O.S. worked immediately. Andrew turned to see if I was watching him on the jungle gym and I gave him my biggest grin. His face transformed into a huge smile. The same with Will (who was happy already anyway, cute thing). Within 5 minutes, Andrew went from out of control to happy and joyful. By the time we got back in the car, we were all genuinely in fabulous moods.
My kids are just tiny little human mood rings of me, reflecting back at me whatever mood I exude at them. Looks like it is in my power to be a completely perfect mother after all! (Does ignoring them while blogging count as an imperfection? Didn't think so, either.)

14 comments:

Eliza said...

Love it...hilarious.

Although I think I am OK at smiling despite my mood when wrangling my kids in public, I have a hard time remembering to smile when I am just in a "normal" mood, and particularly when I am alone/deep in thought. Extraordinarily happy moods mean I smile, bad moods mean I scowl, and in-between, normal, mostly-happy moods also mean I scowl, I think because it is my concentration face. I think even if I set the goal of smiling, I would just forget to because I would start thinking about something else.

Once a few months ago I was feeling a little stressed. Really not a lot--just a tiny bit. I had a chance to dash off by myself to Wegmans and I spent the trip deep in thought. When I got to the cashier, he asked how my day was going. "Fine," I replied. "Really?" he said. "Because you really don't look very happy." HA! That was a wakeup to me, but I still have a hard time remembering to smile even when I do feel happy. Life is good--of course I am happy. I just forget to show it because I am busy thinking about it.

Michelle said...

what a great post Allie, I'm serious. Mike says that I have a permanent scowl on my face. Nice, right? It is so true that our kids will follow our example, and I totally appreciate your stories and honesty about adult tantrums....I just had one yesterday! Right now I am telling Brixton "no" with a very serious face...and he's just laughing at me. I just love you. Let's pick another day to hang out. Sorry last Saturday didn't work.

Sarah said...

That's a great observation. It's started to get interesting around here with three kids, and I've resorted to yelling too. I hate it. I'll have to try out O.S. out. Thanks for sharing. You look great, by the way! I love that dress.

Ie Li said...

"My kids are just tiny little human mood rings of me, reflecting back at me whatever mood I exude at them."

That is so true. I feel inspired.

Ashley said...

I needed this today. I just got back from packing all my kids in the car, driving to the store, trying to shove them in the cart, then giving up and putting them immediately back in the car and returning home because they were bawling and I couldn't face it. I love what you said about remembering certain adults who never seemed happy. I don't want to be that guy. And it totally cracks me up that people apologize to you for their testimonies, etc. I love that, though I have no recollection of you ever seeming grumpy or stone-faced. I'm sure you are too hard on yourself, but the post was great nonetheless.

Monica Rich said...

You're a great mom, Allie. A really great mom.

terrah said...

Thanks so much Alexandra, I so appreciate the reminder. And of course so incredibly expressive way you shared it!

A few weeks ago we started learning the Primary song "My Eternal Family" song for FHE. It has a catchy tune, and I find the lyrics circling in my head... usually after I've displayed a short temper with my kids... "I am a builder working each day to build my family. And I will do the best that I can to serve them lovingly". I think it should be a RS song too!

Tat said...

Super love you. Miss you. You're hilarious.

Jenny said...

I think you could write a parenting book based on OS and make millions of dollars. Loved this post!

alexandra said...

Terrah, I agree with you! Those are some perfect lines for mothers to remember. Probably even more than for kids.

Jenny, I only hope that those loser doctors haven't trade-marked the title. I just have to find a way to sell it into the mormon world, like joy school. Hmmm. :)

Ashley, thanks for not thinking I was stony-faced. During the fifth apology for a testimony I was like "WTH? I was inspired by your freaking message!" Ha! (that's my new symbol for I'm just kidding).

Briana said...

A gem of a post.

I've had these same feelings all summer. Thanks for sharing.

Erin said...

I'm smiling right now!!! We must be on the same wavelength because I have been trying this.
You have no idea how many nights I have gotten into bed and thought I am not acting any better than they are! I am throwing just as many "tantrums" and somehow it is justified because I am trying to help them with their little tiff!
Anyway, so nice to read your thoughts. Really. (You know what I repeat all day long and now I've added smiling)

Erin said...

I have this quote in the front of my planner...

"How often we see parents demand obedience, good behavior, kind words, pleasant looks, a sweet voice and a bright eye from a child or children when they themselves are full of bitterness and scolding! How inconsistent and unreasonable this is. We should set an example for them we wish to imitate." Elder Hales

I read this in the Ensign a couple of months ago and I think my jaw dropped. Just what I needed to hear! So, here's to being the perfect mother...CHEERS!!

Mer Swift said...

I read this for the first time awhile ago, but left it unread in my Google Reader because I just had to go back and read it again. I totally agree with Jenny. You need to write a parenting book. Loved this post! Love you!