This I Believe

Doug - Mayodan, North Carolina
Entered on October 30, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood
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I believe my children should be happy … sometimes.

We’ve all said it — “As long as he’s/she’s happy.” — when talking about one of our children. I find myself saying it mostly when commenting on a potential career choice. Doctor? Nurse? Lawyer? It’s a lot of work, long hours, but they’re respectable jobs. What about a fashion designer? Well, as long as he’s happy. Note that it’s not so much an issue with a daughter.

This got me thinking about what we as parents shoot for with child-rearing. Is a child’s happiness the end-all? If there was a HAPPY button on the wall, connected to the world’s biggest WI-FI, and my son was on that particular frequency, would I just hit the button? Be happy, son. HAPPY.

Gee, Dad, I was thinkin’ of being an NBA star. Me: “As long as you’re happy.” (Meaning, good luck, but the odds are stacked against you.) Gee, Dad, what if I got into a band and started making CDs. “As long as you’re happy.”

This is a great answer when we as parents don’t have a clue about what the right answer is. Oh sure, I know my son is good at science and math, and he’s a pretty darn good basketball player, but life is long, and his life will (hopefully) extend far beyond the end of my years.

And life shouldn’t be HAPPY all the time, should it? Not every single second of every single day of every freakin’ year. Hell, I get bored just thinking about it. No, happiness can only be fully appreciated when there’s something to compare it to. Namely, unhappiness. Okay, maybe ‘down in the dumps’ might be more appropriate.

But isn’t TRYING to be happy more important? Wouldn’t it be great if our children tried to find what made them happy? I’m fast-approaching fifty and I’m still trying. If anything, I hope my children are better and locating the target, but at least they know they should try.

And I suppose it comes back to some Zen saying or another, life’s not a destination, it’s a journey. It’s not hitting the HAPPY button, it’s searching for that ever elusive karmic state of Zen that we know none of us can actually ever achieve.

Still, maybe once in a while, just when my kids are down, I don’t have to hit the HAPPY button. I just give them a hug. It might not make them happy, but it makes them more complete as human beings. And as parents, that’s what we should strive for.