A few weeks ago the writer Laura Jane Williams sent me a copy of her book Ice Cream for Breakfast. I took one look at the cover line – “How rediscovering your inner child can make you calmer, happier and solve your bullshit adult problems” – and just knew it was going to be good. And, spoiler alert, it is!
In 2016 Laura was hit with a severe case of burnout and, in her words, she had “forgotten how to just be happy.” Laura’s unconventional solution: take a part-time job as a nanny for a local family. After spending just one day in the company of three awesome children she experienced a huge shift in her mindset. And in Ice Cream for Breakfast Laura shares the essential life lessons those kids taught her.
I powered through this book in 48 hours, and found it so uplifting and motivational. The lessons are divided into 40 bitesized chapters, and here are a few of my favourites…
“BEING PROUDLY OBSESSED, YOU WEIRDO”
“Nobody ever met a passionate kid and didn’t instantly fall in love with them. It’s exciting to be around excited people! So whatever you’re into? Be into it proudly. Own it.”
This chapter resonated so deeply with me, because for as long as I can remember I’ve always been super-passionate about slightly kooky things that no one else in my circle cares about.
Throughout my early teens and pre-teens I was obsessed – like, genuinely OBSESSED – with the series of Gossip Girl novels by Cecily von Ziegesar. None of my friends read the books, or could care less about the total dreamboat that is Nathaniel Fitzwilliam Archibald. And I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was a total weirdo for being so captivated by a set of fictional, Upper East Side hotties.
A decade later I was finally vindicated, when the majority of my friends fell in love with the TV adaptation. But by that point I’d already moved onto other oddball obsessions that drew puzzled looks from my friends. And I don’t fret about it any more.
“It’s just like what we do for kids – we buy them the dinosaur books and the ancient Egypt DVDs and take them to the airport to look over the runway at the planes, because it’s lovely to hear them ooo and aaaaaaaa that way… We encourage kids to be little weirdos, so let’s be little weirdos ourselves. The right ones will love us because of it, not in spite of. And if they don’t? Well. At least we’re enjoying ourselves.”
Very few/none of my friends share my passion for country music. And even less understand why I’m downright obsessed with The Bachelor franchise (FYI: I subscribe to a handful of podcasts that analyse all of the gossip from “Bachelor Nation” each week. Major geek alert!). But, instead of concealing the weird quirks that make me who I am, I’ve learnt to embrace them and let my freak flag fly. And, do you know what? I’m enjoying myself.
“BELIEVING IN YOURSELF”
Chapter 17 is all about how important it is to believe in yourself. Because, as Laura points out, “Kids haven’t learned limits yet, and so for them opportunity is limitless.”
But sometimes believing in yourself wholeheartedly takes a lot of courage. Especially if it means taking the road less travelled. And Laura offers up some great ways you can practise self-belief, within this chapter. This, right here, is my favourite piece of advice:
“Be careful what you let influence you – we stop children from watching TV before school, and limit the shows they can access on YouTube: we screen the books they read and are mindful about the company they keep. Be as mindful of yourself. Don’t just consume crap, thoughtlessly. Deliberately seek out content and experiences and people that will inspire you and lift you up.”
I don’t know about you, but I consume crap, thoughtlessly, all the time. Every. Single. Day. And it never really occurred to me that I could mindfully choose what type of content I soak up.
For a lot of people, Instagram is the trigger point. I know that it has the power to swallow up all self-belief, and make people feel like they’re less than or not good enough. So, if this is the case for you, now is the time to go through your feed and unfollow the accounts that always make you feel like crap. Then, in the words of Laura, deliberately seek out the people who lift you up.
“ABANDONING WHAT ISN’T WORKING”
“When the thing we most want continues to elude us, perhaps that thing isn’t for us. Not ever, or maybe just for now. Sometimes the thing we want is a butterfly: it will come and rest on our shoulder, gently and quietly, but we have to stop chasing it first.”
In the year that Laura spent a year working as a part-time nanny she noticed that kids always move on quickly when something isn’t working. “A child doesn’t persevere with what isn’t working out of some stubborn sense of pride,” she writes. “If it doesn’t work, they quit!”
Now, obviously this isn’t to say you should quit every time and obstacle is thrown in your direction. Part of being a grown-up is seeing things through, and learning how to successfully dig yourself out of difficult situations. But we often make ourselves miserable, fighting and pushing for things that the universe isn’t ready to give us.
So it’s about time we all gave ourselves the permission to say “Enough!” and move on when certain things simply refuse to go our way. It reminds me of Amy Poehler’s brilliant career advice, “Try to care less. Practise ambivalence.”
Sometimes we just have to let things go.
Are you excited to read Ice Cream for Breakfast by Laura Jane Williams? And do you think you would benefit from living a more childlike existence? Leave a comment below to have your say…
Ice Cream for Breakfast is now available in paperback. Shop at Amazon.co.uk. The book will be published in the US on October 9th, under the title Kidding: Childlike Solutions to Bullsh*t Adult Problems.