“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa
Lost in my thoughts, I moved from counter to table and table to counter as I was hurrying to get dinner on the table. I wasn’t mad or happy. I was simply in a state of action. Dinner. I came to a complete halt when I noticed my 3-year-old intensely watching my every move. My fast, hurried, frazzled moves. Moves that sent a message of stress rather than control. Our eyes locked momentarily. I tried to pull away, but I couldn’t. His look was so intense I had to say something. “What is it?”
“Mommy, are you happy or mad?”
“I’m happy. Why?”
“Then why is your face doing this?” He made a most serious facial expression that I must say was one fine mad face.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not mad at all. I was just busy making dinner. I’m very happy.”
His shoulders relaxed, his face broke out into a smile that covered his face, and he hugged me.
He needed to know I was happy. His sense of security seemed to be tied to the state of my emotions.
Later the same night, I was in the same state of preparation for bedtime. Clothes were being gathered for the morning, rooms tidied, children prepped for bed. This time it was my 7-year-old.
“Mom, are you mad about something?”
“No, honey, why would you think I’m mad.”
“Because your face looks mad. I wondered if I had done something to make you mad.”
“Not at all. Sometimes I guess I just am not really thinking of anything and my relaxed facial expression just might not look happy. But I am!”
I reflected on their comments later that evening. I thought about what a smile does to me. When a stranger shoots me a little smile, my spirit is immediately lifted. When my children walk in the door with a smile on their face, my heart is warmed. A smile encourages us. A smile sends a message to our children of love and acceptance. A smile says ‘I am pleased with you’. A smile says ‘You can do this’. A smile says ‘I’m on your side’. A smile carries a thousand messages.
If our little ones could write us a little message, would it go something like this…
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m watching you all the time. Even when you don’t notice. I love to study your facial expressions. What things make you mad and what things make you happy. I love when you are happy. I love to see you smile at me. When you are smiling, I feel safe. I can relax when I see you smile because I know you have it all under control. When you smile I know you are pleased with me.
I can’t control my emotions very well, and I have tantrums that embarrass you. Please forgive me. I’m a child in training. Model to me how to control my emotions. If you yell at me, I might think that is how I am to handle my frustrations with you.
You are the center of my world. My comfort comes from you and I desperately want to make you happy. I will make so many mistakes every single day. Please be patient with me. I really want to do what is right, but I need help in figuring it out. Please speak gently with me. It scares me when you yell.
And please don’t ever give up on me. Even when you think I don’t want you. I will always want you and need you.
When you smile at me and speak with a gentle voice, I feel loved by you. I love you.
Smile even when you don’t feel like it. It will make you feel better. And the little ones watching too.