The Habit of Learning Hope

One of Bea’s rituals is to run through the front yard, waving to Frank as he drives off to work. Barefoot and in her nightgown, she’ll yell before the neighborhood is awake, I love you! You can count on me!!

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Cultivating the habit of thankfulness

The other morning, Frank got up early to try to get in before any of us woke up. I was still in bed when I heard little feet race down the stairs and the front door open. Bea had raced out to the car as Frank was pulling out. Even though he had just taken over a week off of work, she clung to him saying, I miss you so much when you’re gone!

I would have thought that an entire week in Philadelphia plus a long weekend at home after that would have filled her daddy-time tank. It’s amazing how quickly we remember and revert to old habits.

During our last week of the Whole30 reintroduction, we meticulously meal planned to the final day. And then, our cupboards were bare and we ate horribly. It was as though we had learned nothing from a month and a half of healthy eating and meal planning.

Monday was the last day of the Write 31 Days challenge and it’s been nice not to have to write every day or to check in with social media. I’ve enjoyed this small break, and was mentally preparing to take at least a week off.

Here’s the thing with habits. They’re formed with good intention and easily broken so quickly. I realized that, while I simply can’t commit to posting every day, if I took too long of a break, I would easily be in a similar slump to what I felt at the beginning of the challenge.

I think that’s the hardest part of forming habits. For a month, it’s not bad and even fun to keep an intentional practice. But to make it a daily, long lasting change? That’s hard! I want to eat all the Halloween candy and enjoy wine with dinner. I want to write when the spirit moves, without sitting down and being disciplined. I want to watch TV that takes us past our 9:00 bedtime.

And sometimes, I totally break these habits. We’ll choose to watch a show or I’ll choose to sneak a pack of M&Ms out of Bea’s pumpkin. But I also have to choose to return to a healthier way of living. I know that I’m more energized and a better mom when I go to bed early. I know I feel better when I eat healthfully.

I guess that’s the biggest downside to making life-changing choices: It means changing my lifestyle to continue them.

Then I see the girls and how our modeling intentional habits reflects into their lives. Elle loves climbing in my lap with a pen to do her own “writing.” The other day, Bea said she didn’t think candy was “Whole30 Compliant.” Maybe they don’t see us going to bed early, but they see the effects of having brighter and happier parents in the morning.

For now, the high of a great achievement is wearing off and I’m faced with the mundane reminder that keeping habits is work. Not bad work, but work.

I’m reminded of what Brené Brown says in Gifts of Imperfection:

Hope is learned! … Children most often learn hope from their parents…. [They] need relationships that are characterized by boundaries, consistency, and support. I think it’s so empowering to know that I have the ability to teach my children how to hope (66).

In this climate of hopelessness, this paragraph hit home for me. The habits and boundaries that I set for my own life and well-being are modeled to my children. If I can’t set boundaries for myself, how can I set them for the girls? And without these parameters and the safety that comes with them, hope cannot be learned.

I can’t change the political climate or the injustices of this world as easily as I can instill hope in our own home.

So, here’s to a season of boundaries, of keeping habits, and of the underlying lessons of hope that come because of that.

How do you practice hopefulness? Any tips for keeping good habits going?

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4 thoughts on “The Habit of Learning Hope

  1. I think if I could teach just one thing, it would be hope. Yes and a never-ending chorus of Yeses! That’s one habit I want embedded in my soul. Loved reading this Annie.

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