‘’I just want you to be happy.”
How many parents have uttered this line?
How many children have heard it?
When we say these words, are we setting up our children for a lifetime of disappointment?
What does it mean to be happy?
Tick- tick-tick precious seconds are accumulating as I’m waiting for you to come up with a sufficient answer…
What is happiness? How do we achieve it? Why do we want that one thing, above all others, for our children? What does it really mean when we say we want them to be happy?
First off- is anyone happy all the time? I know I’m not. We can’t be happy all the time. Our kids expect to be happy and when something takes work, or doesn’t end up according to plan, they get depressed. They wonder what is wrong with them – they wonder why they can’t be happy…because their parents just want them to be happy…and deep down no kid wants to disappoint their parents.
Some kids don’t look for a job, or a career, or their own apartment, because having to do these things might not make them happy. Who wants to go to work at a specific time every day and do work? That certainly doesn’t make most people happy…
Even when things go right- the partner, the career, the car, they wonder why they are not in a perpetual state of bliss. Their expectation is that, like everything else in their young lives, happiness is supposed to be 24/7/365.
I may not know what happiness is, but I certainly know it’s not 24/7/365.
So why do we say “I just want you to be happy”?
Why don’t we say- ‘I want you to pursue happiness- go for the things that will fulfill you and help you grow and learn. I want you to live a life with few regrets, while knowing that everything comes with a price, whether literal or figurative. I want you to know that it’s OK if there are times when “happy” isn’t your predominant emotion- being happy all the time is too much of an emotional burden.
With all the words in our language- how did we become so focused on HAPPY?
Why don’t we try another word- How about as parents we say:
I just want you to be resilient.
I want you to be happy 50% of the time.
Just be the best you that you can be- in whatever form that takes.
I think as parents, we want to frame their journey, but it doesn’t work that way, of course. We can’t control what happens to them once they’re out in the world. We seem to live in such a child-centered culture now. Everything revolves around making children happy and removing challenges and obstacles from their life. This is a disservice and I wish parents would rethink how they can best raise children to be resilient, tenacious adults who don’t wither at the first sign of failure.
After all, how can a person really appreciate happiness and joy without something in which to compare it to? Focusing on gratitude for what we already have can go a long way in stemming the *happiness* of having the latest shiny, new thing.
So many people want their kids to go through life with no obstacles or heartache. How do you know what’s good if you don’t have a full life of experience? Kids need to learn.