In Hard Times, Focus on What Truly Matters

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What do you do when jealousy sets in?

As we all know, social media has done a lot of damage to us all. One of the worst ways in which it hurts us is with the ability to see all the fun stuff everyone else gets to do. It’s easy to slip into jealous mode.

A few years ago, I was not doing well professionally. I’ve written about this at great length already, so I won’t go into all the details again. But suffice to say, disposable income was a pipe dream. We could barely afford to clothe our children.

It was a frustrating time for me, but doubly frustrating because I found myself going online and browsing around on Facebook.

What I saw were friends of ours at Disney World. Some friends were taking big hotel trips with their kids. Some were going out to eat at awesome restaurants.

Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out how I could stretch a bag of frozen chicken from Aldi into enough interesting meals that my family would eat them for a week. Our biggest excitement was taking the kids for a walk around the block.

It wasn’t like us.

We used to travel all the time!

When my wife and I were first married, we prioritized traveling. We knew traveling would be more complicated with kids, so we tried to get as much in as we could.

A honeymoon in Hawaii.

Our first anniversary at Disney World.

Our second anniversary spending 2 1/2 weeks touring Europe.

Our third anniversary seeing a special Walt Disney museum collection in Chicago.

After we started working on having kids, my career took off and we were making money. We spend long weekends in Wisconsin Dells doing whatever our hearts desired. It was incredible.

I thought it would never stop.

Of course, it screeched to a halt after we started having kids – not because we couldn’t travel with children, but because my career bit the dust hard soon after our first son was born.

Now he was getting older, and we had another son. I wanted to make memories with these boys! I wanted to be a “good” father and provide for them!

Watching other dads be able to provide exciting experiences for their kids was something I really struggled with.

But gradually, a new habit was formed…

Music unlocks an important lesson

I love music. So does my wife.

We met in the music department in high school. We both sang in choirs. We both performed in musicals on stage. We both perform in the praise band at our church. Music is a big part of our lives and has been for a long time.

I prioritized music ownership years ago. I operate a Plex server in my office here that is loaded with thousands of songs, organized and ranked accordingly. When we’re in a particular mood for a kind of music, we can launch it with just a few taps, thanks to Plex.

Even better, I was able to take advantage of many free promotions and heavy discounts to outfit our entire house with Google Home Mini speakers. We even have a Nest Hub with a screen in our kitchen (that I scored for free).

In other words, we can play music anywhere in the house at any time.

Making dinner? Music.

Turning off the TV? Music.

Just hanging out? Music.

With the tunes always playing, it wasn’t uncommon for my boys to let the rhythm get them and start dancing. They loved it, especially when we turned on our “Kids Music” playlist, which is loaded with mostly Disney songs. A particularly upbeat one comes on, and they have to jump up and start cutting some rugs.

You can’t be around this for too long before you join in, so I often found myself dancing and shaking my groove thing along with the boys to smiles and laughter.

Before long, this became a habit.

When the TV was off or we were all hanging out in the living room, one of my boys would ask if we could do a dance party. If we agreed, they would open up our little ottoman and pull out a blanket to spread out on the carpet as a “dance floor.”

We spent many broke Friday nights like this. We still dance together regularly. Our Google Photos accounts are loaded with videos of us dancing and laughing together.

Eventually, it hit me.

This is what they want!

I’m smiling.

They’re smiling.

We’re all laughing and making silly faces and silly dance moves together.

We’re bonding.

We’re making memories.

This is what they want – and what I want, too.

When my kids look back on their childhoods, they are going to remember the times when we dropped everything to dance and play with them. They aren’t going to remember the parks we took them to or the presents we bought them. They certainly won’t remember the restaurants we ate in.

They will remember the bond we formed over dancing together in the living room on Friday nights.

Remembering what is important

The frustrations might mount. They are valid. But we don’t have to give them the weight that we often do.

Those dance parties with my kids do everything I could want to do for them, and it doesn’t cost us a dime. And those are memories that will last forever.

In those moments, none of us cared about how tight our clothes were, or how cold the house was, or how we couldn’t afford to go anywhere.

All we cared about was having fun together.

That’s what matters.

Whenever you find yourself struggling with the state of the world or the stuff going wrong in your life, take a step back and see what really matters. Often, it won’t cost you a thing – and you might be surprised at how satisfying it all is.

Put down the checkbook, turn off Facebook, and go spend some quality time with the people you love. That’s what will build a little healthy perspective in your life.

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Written by Tom Meitner, your favorite author. That's why you're here, right?
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