We Can Learn a Lot About Happiness From a Four Year Old

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Thomas TrainBy Irene Conlan —

Sometimes we need a break from the heavy duty task of self improvement to just enjoy life. (actually that is basically why we’re trying to improve – to enjoy life more). We just had a birthday party for my grandson, Jack, and it was one of those times that you couldn’t be down if you tried. (And some do try).

My baking skills have gotten somewhat out of practice in the years that I’ve taken a vacation from the stove. I haven’t baked anything but pre-made cookies. But Jack had declared some time ago that he wanted a cake about Thomas the Train and I promised that he would have it. Oh, my, the things we promise sometimes. Well, I couldn’t find a cake pan shaped like Thomas and I waited too long to order stuff online. So I went to the Party Store and, sure enough, they had a good stock of Thomas items – except for anything to do with a cake. They had confetti that had large Thomases so I got those and all the other things needed for a party – tablecloth, napkins, paper plates, etc, all with Thomas emblazoned on them. I scotch taped the little trains to        toothpicks and we were in business.

Jack wanted cupcakes so I had a challenge. I got a six inch cakepan so his “cupcake” would be big. When he came here after preschool, we baked his cake and the cupcakes. He was excited to help and we had fun in the doing. When the cakes had cooled we frosted them and he put the sprinkles on and the little trains-on-toothpicks in the center of each one. Some were graced with a little thumb print and some had places where the frosting was very thin because he would now and then swipe a finger through it to get another taste. They were beautiful (at least he thought so) and he was delighted.

Jack loves cars and they’re always a great gift for him. But he had confided that what he really wanted was a Thomas the Train to keep at our house. He has an Imaginarium train set complete with the table to put it on. He has a Thomas the Train set at his mother’s house, and, he confided,he needed a Thomas at Dad’s and my house – this was a plea stated with great passion. Well, he got cars, which he loved, DVDs of Nemo and Thomas, and his coveted Thomas the Train. A friend sent a huge bouquet of balloons. Jack was ecstatic.

He glowed. He played until he was just too tired to push Thomas and the cars another inch and fell asleep in the middle of the living room floor with Thomas in his hand in mid-push.Yesterday – the day after his party – he was in a state of constant play. He built bridges and went over imaginary water with the train hauling the little cars as cargo. Thomas circled the coffee table so many times that there’s a “train track” in the carpet. He hid in the middle of the balloons and then used them as a punching bag all the while giggling wildly. It was another wonderful day.

“That’s what life is supposed to be like.” I thought. Ecstatic over the wonderful gifts we have received – the sunshine, fresh air, green grass, beautiful flowers, good food, good friends – and cupcakes with your own fingerprints in the frosting. When did we stop being like that? When did we get so serious?

We can learn a lot from a four year old. When did we forget that life was fun? Maybe part of our self improvement program could be a return to fun.

Irene Conlan

Irene Conlan has a master's degree in nursing, She taught nursing at Arizona State University, served as Director of Nursing Administration at St. Luke's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and served as Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services for the Division of Health Care Facilities and Emergency Medical Services. Now retired, she is an avid blogger and manages http://www.theselfimprovementblog.com,http://www.theselfesteemblog.com and hosts the Self Improvement Radio Show on VoiceAmerica. Irene lives in Fountain Hills, AZ and has two sons and four grandsons.