Curb Your Enthusiasm?
Stop laughing like a hyena.
Will you please just cool your jets?
Please don’t do cartwheels in the living room.
Why are you shouting?
What is going on that prevents you from sitting still right now?
Do you have to sing so loudly this morning?
I have been playing the part of a broken record these past few weeks. I am tired of hearing myself say such things to my kids on a daily basis. And I am certain they are tired of hearing me. We have had a lot going on - moving across the country and settling into a new routine and a new house and new schools. There is always something to be done or to fix or to clean up. There is always a new rule about the house that we discover because they do something that makes us realize we need a rule about it. (No sliding down the bannister. We didn’t have a banister in the old house so we never had a rule. You can bet that after what I observed the other day, we have a rule now!) And I am telling them time and time again to just - stop. Be quiet. Calm yourselves down. Curb your enthusiasm.
As adults we are told, directly or indirectly, to be cool. To be calm. We are told to work on our poker faces and not wear our hearts on our sleeves. We are rewarded for being unemotional and detached, seemingly better equipped to handle challenging situations that come our way. The natural enthusiasm and excitement that comes with daily living is tempered and unrewarded, regarded as something that should only be revealed for worthy reasons. We can be excited about winning the lottery, or having a baby, or greeting family at the airport. But even these celebratory events are not to be enjoyed in public for all to see. We turn our heads when we see someone screaming, even for joy, in a restaurant, or on the street. We think something must be wrong with them - surely they aren’t showing us their enthusiasm in broad daylight for all to see?
Enthusiasm is defined as intense and eager enjoyment. If we aren’t allowed to intensely enjoy things in public, what in the world is enthusiasm even for? Pizza for dinner - let’s shout. Heading off to see the grandparents - let’s dance down the sidewalk. A thunderstorm is coming and it will create a lightshow in the clouds - let’s roll around on the living room carpet in delight and do cartwheels when parents aren’t looking. I am not exaggerating. Every little new thing lately elicits this utterly annoying enthusiasm from the kids and this level of activity that I can’t even capture with words. Everything. And it is annoying.
Maybe annoyed is not exactly how I am feeling. Maybe what I am experiencing is a very deep sense of jealousy. I am absolutely jealous that they are able to enjoy life with such reckless abandon when there is serious stuff to do. I am seriously jealous that they are able to live in a world in which being enthusiastic is the default reaction. Through their young and well-rested eyes, all that life presents to them is worthy of celebrating, not just the big events. And that celebrating certainly doesn’t have to happen behind closed doors. Life is great for them. And they don’t mind that everyone around them knows. I certainly don’t want my own jealousy to affect my ability to let them enjoy life like I’m sure I did when I was their age. But what I’m thinking about more is the idea that I should never be in a position of telling my kids, or anyone for that matter, to stop being excited. I can’t believe that I would actually tell them to stop being excited about something. I can’t believe that I would stand between them and general jubilation about life or the empty basement or the fact that it stopped raining. What am I doing?
What are the benefits of curbing the enthusiasm of the people around me? Well, I get my much needed peace. I don’t have to worry about them putting their feet through a window doing a cartwheel gone wrong. I don’t have to listen to their feet pounding up and down the stairs. And after I have successfully admonished them for being too excited, you would think I would feel fantastic.
And the benefits for them? Nothing. Nada. They just learn that being jubilant is frowned upon. They might learn that cartwheels indoors are dangerous but fundamentally, they associate being excited with having done something wrong. I certainly don’t want to teach them that.
When I kill their enthusiasm I actually end up killing a bit of my own. Yes my world is quieter and more orderly, but then I am reminded of the weight of the world, or the gravity of being an adult with responsibilities. And that doesn’t always feel so good. Watching them celebrate and be crazy-excited actually gives me an opportunity to enjoy a bit more of the bounty that is life. It reminds me that while I might never have a lottery win to be enthusiastic about, I do have another wonderful day full of abundance to enjoy. And I, my kids, and everyone else is allowed to be as enthusiastic about that as they damn well please.
So what’s a mom to do? I’ll dish out some legitimately great advice:
Laugh more. Laugh loudly. Dance more. Kick up your heels. Celebrate the big stuff and remember that if you are living to see another day, there is no little stuff because it is all worth celebrating. Sing at the top of your lungs. Be as enthusiastic as you can as often as you can for as long as you can. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are celebrating too much because there is no such thing. You can even do a few cartwheels, but try to avoid the windows, will you? If you break one it will make a huge mess. I can’t possibly be enthusiastic about that.