Life and Health

Lessons from “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”

The evidence states that it is important to read to your child. If there is one thing you can do to help your child be successful it is read to them every day. Now that doesn’t have to be sitting down and reading books; it can be reading street signs, it can be reading labels, any kind of reading counts as evidenced by the fact that I must read every. single. street sign/billboard because I was a struggling reader so my mom (a special ed teacher) made me practice on roadside signs. It’s taken almost 40 years but now I love to read and make sure to carve out time for it in my day.

For us, in this house, we usually do the bedtime stories (and the Munchkin asks me to read signs to her while I’m driving…and the cycle continues) Sometimes the Munchkin will ask us to read to her during the day but for the most part it’s a bedtime ritual that helps everyone wind down and get ready for sleep. Most of the books we read are picture books and it’s impressive the lessons that are applicable for children but also for parents (and all people) in picture books.

We’ve had a few rough days, as I’m sure you can imagine, during this pandemic and one of the books we’ve read a few times is called “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Henkes. The story is of a little mouse girl named Lilly and most days she normally really enjoys going to school and loves her classroom, teacher, and classmates. One day she brings in all these cool things she wants to show her class and when her teacher tells her “not right now” she gets angry and does some mean things. The teacher writes her a note “today was a tough day, tomorrow will be better” which then makes Lilly feel guilty and think about how to make up for the mean things she did.

This idea “today was a tough day, tomorrow will be better” was the lesson that’s gotten to me over the past few months. I’ve not been at my parenting best or most patient some days for many different reasons. And while parents are allowed to have bad days (and in fact having a bad day and recovering from it is hugely important for children to witness) it’s still important to acknowledge that they are going to happen and we can recover from them.

This goes along with one of my favorite lines, which is the headline for this blog, “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet” from the Anne of Green Gables story by L. M. Montgomery.

I can get stuck ruminating over the “terrible” things I’ve done. Sometimes these mental hamster wheels keep me up at night, sometimes they keep me from really being present and enjoying life, sometimes that have me hiding in my pillow fort…whatever this ruminating does to me on a particular day, it invariably keeps me from living my best life. Worrying about things I’ve done in the past (or things I may do in the future) puts me on a hamster wheel that can be hard to get off of. Hearing this lesson in (another) children’s book reminds me that there is always tomorrow to have a better day. Tomorrow I can try to apologize or make up for a mistake if it’s warranted or I can move forward and recognize that I’m a human that isn’t perfect.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years teaching high school and living life that I have to constantly remind myself is that I am not nearly as important to anyone else as I am to myself. Especially when I make a mistake or do something stupid; people generally aren’t talking about it or worried about it nearly as long as I am thinking about it. I am the center of my own universe so everything I do or say is magnified in my mind but many of the other people around me probably don’t think twice about some of the things I’ve done or the many times I’ve put my foot in my mouth. While some of my mistakes have become enshrined in friendship lore (this happens sometimes once friendships are old enough to drink) they have become things we can laugh about and the stupid things kids do but they aren’t events that warrant the mental energy to keep me up at night.

Lilly and Anne have the important reminders that most mistakes are cleared out with the sunrise and we have the chance to begin again. We don’t have to be perfect and we don’t have to do everything right we just have to remember to not give up. Tomorrow is a new day; we can try living and doing this human thing all over again tomorrow if we didn’t get it right today. I often use meditation or writing as a way to release my cares of the day if I have something specific weighing in on my mind to try and settle my brain down for sleep. I know the new day will be easier to face if I’m well rested and not thinking about the what ifs and should-ing all over myself about either a past mistake or a future catastrophe (which will most likely never actually come to pass…I’ve made it through almost 15,000 days at this point so my track record for making it through is pretty good I’d say).

“Today was a tough day, tomorrow will be better” has been a mantra we’ve used here in this house for the past few months when we’ve had some bad days or been in bad moods. Sometimes you can’t fix today but you can always try again tomorrow and that’s the important part; don’t ever give up on living. Develop the tools you need (mine are meditation and writing) and reach out to the people who love you but tomorrow will be better as long as you’re willing to try it again.

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