Happy spring

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Last week brought a week of walks, sidewalk chalk and kids getting pummeled by swings.

A week of dusting them off and explaining for at least the 10th time that you really should walk around the swingset, not in front of it.

A week of neighborly chats and dead bug discoveries.

A week of bicycle rides, slides, digging in dirt and back yard conversations about frogs and rabbits and, "Is Easter tomorrow?"

A week when the sun put us all in a good mood. A week we all desperately needed. 

Because amid all the complexities of parenting, I savor simplicity. 

An afternoon spent outside. Tired, but a good, fresh-air sort of tired at the end of the day. Warm baths. Bedtime stories. And deep sleeps.

I thought of this as I read some of the concepts behind the book, "Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents."

Written by Christine Carter, the executive director of the Greater Good Science Center at The University of California, Berkley, the book says happiness is more than a mood. 

It's a bunch of emotions: gratitude, forgiveness, appreciation, optimism and confidence.

Among the "steps" in her books, she encourages parents to model happiness. Visit friends. Exercise. Do whatever makes you happy too.

Teach your kids gratitude and self-discipline, she writes. "Expect effort and enjoyment, not perfection." Don't overpraise, and "embrace failure."

Allow kids the freedom to make mistakes "so they can learn that they are capable of picking themselves up after falling."

"Raise their emotional intelligence" by being sensitive and consistently responding to their needs, she writes.

Perhaps these are the keys to a kid's happiness, a parent's happiness too. I don't know.

I do know that I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to be a good parent, the right kind of parent when sometimes, all I can manage is to just be there. 

And maybe that's okay, too.

Because, as much as you analyze, as many books and studies as you read, as much advice as you get, parenting can and should just be simple sometimes.

My kids taught me that.

When I watch them giggle as they run bare-foot through the front yard. When they're so excited about a cob web that they have to call over the neighbors. When a pair of flip flops after a long winter makes them bounce as they walk. 

I hope I'm instilling in them the emotions they need to be happy, even if they get knocked over by the swing sometimes. But I kind of think in many ways they were born that way. Me too. I just forget sometimes.

They remind me.

And that makes me happy.

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