If you ask most parents what they want most for their kids when they grow up, you will probably hear something like,
“I want my child to...
- get into a good college.”
- have a job that pays well and fulfills them.”
- get married.”
- have a family.”
- be a good member of society.”
- live close to me.”
- move out of the house.”
And ultimately, you will hear that parents want all of these things for their offspring when they are fully grown because, “I just want my child to be happy.”
I get it. Oh boy, do I get it.
You hold this tiny infant in your hands and they NEED you for everything.
For changing their diapers.
For peek-a-boo marathons.
Then this baby grows into a toddler who NEEDS you for many of the same things, but also to learn how to walk, speak, sleep, play, apologize, laugh, and listen.
You know the rest. Your kid grows up and their NEED for you lessens for the physical stuff, but their NEED for the emotional stuff increases.
In refraining from screaming as you sit in the passenger seat when they are learning how to drive.
This once baby is turning into a real-life human adult and BOY HOWDY, you sure wish you did everything you could to prepare them for the “real world.” You pray that they won’t get mixed up in all of the crappy things that ruin lives. You hope they STAY AWAY from drugs.
From negative people.
From addictive substances.
From dating jerks.
From internet predators.
From using too much Axe body spray.
You just want them to have happy lives. You want these humans you have raised to take all that energy, time, money you have spent with them and turn it into something great. You want them to be happy.
What makes a human happy, though?
Are people who went to amazing universities and got killer jobs with the spouse and three kids the only happy ones on earth?
I don’t think so.
Because, if so, that sucks.
I know enough people to know that those things do not make one happy. That there are happy people who have all or some of those things and there are miserable people who have all of those things. I am sure that you, too, may know someone who has NONE of those things and is one of the kindest, happiest of humans you have met.
Back to my four kids. Yes, I have FOUR!
In some circles and societies, that is a crap-ton of little humans to raise. And in other circles, it’s a quaint little number. “Ahh, how cute that you only have four kids. I remember when my first ten kids were all married with at least three kids of their own and I had four children at home left to raise.”
Regardless, I look at all four of my kids and think, “Well, what can we do? How can I help you become the best version of ADULT YOU as possible?”
Here’s what I DO know after only sixteen years of this parenting gig:
Happy is not a thing.
Happiness is a byproduct and result of other things.
If I want my kids to be happy, then they need MORE than a few random items that MY experiences have helped make me happy.
I went to college. It was great. I have gotten some good jobs and some bad jobs. I married a really rad man who luckily is more my best friend now than he was almost 19 years ago. I have four kids who are pretty freakin’ awesome.
Is that why I am happy? If my kids have the same things I have, will they then share my level of happiness?
I don’t buy it.
I want my kids to become the greatest humans they can be. And not college nor jobs nor family can make them “happy.”
(So… what can? Get to the point, already, Anna)
There are FOUR things I want for my kids when they become adults to know, be, and do. They are, in no particular order:
Know how to work hard.
Be kind. To everyone.
Love and take care of their body.
Believe in something greater than them.
That’s it. Granted each one is a pretty big ask and hope in itself.
For example, if I teach my kids to work, they will expect to add to society and not be a taker. There is nothing less attractive than entitlement and laziness. If my kids can WORK, then they will know that if they apply themselves, they will be able to provide.
If they are kind, they will treat everyone with respect. They will not post photos of strangers on “People of Walmart” or laugh at someone who is mentally ill. They will give people the benefit of the doubt and not bully or demean others who are different (or better or worse or equal). Kind people know that when they serve others, that everyone wins/everyone feels happiness. Kindness is a practice and a habit.
I could go on and on (even more than I already have). Someday I may expound on the details of each of the four things I hope to help my children learn.
So I guess I do want them to be happy. Of course, I do. But I don’t wish any prescribed future for my kids. I have NO idea what life has in store for them. I do know that if I help prepare them with tools they can control, that there will be happiness.
And I hope they live close to me. That would definitely add to my happiness.