Yes, you are making them happy.
Your kids, your students, your family. You ARE making them happy. I am forever wondering whether or not I am making everyone happy. Am I making my husband happy? Is my daughter happy? Do I talk to my mom enough, is she happy? Are my students happy? Do they enjoy school? Am I making this a happy place for them?
Happy, Happy, Happy. Insert Duck Dynasty meme here 🙂
For all my musings about how happy everyone is, I rarely ask anyone outright. It’s not something you find yourself saying too often, is it? Are you happy? Seems very personal, and certainly not something that can be as easily met with a curt, “fine” as the typical “How are you doing?” And for that matter, my one year old can no more tell me that she’s happy as she can tell me which outfit she wants to wear or why in God’s name she’s thrown the sippy cup on the floor for the 36,867th time. And my classroom of 30 kids will likely not have too much more eloquent of a response. The husband…well he says he’s happy, so hopefully he is telling the truth 🙂
In reference to the kids, though, I will tell you this. I believe we are making them happy, and I’ll tell you why. I was a kid once, and despite some rather troubling times, I was happy. Children will inherently find the good in a situation, and they will remember the happy times. Don’t get me wrong, I remember some pretty low times as well, which is precisely the point I am trying to make. Despite everything, children gravitate towards the happy. Sparing the gory details of my parents’ unhappy marriage, the single parent lifestyle we evolved into with my mom was, looking back, not an easy one. As a parent now I can see through her eyes the stress and heartache that she went through to provide for my sister and I as best she could, not only supplying us with the necessities, but making sure we were happy.
We were financially strapped for the majority of my early years, but I never felt like I missed out, despite attending school in a relatively affluent area. We certainly never wanted for necessities, and we had enough nice clothes and toys and books. Something that my mother focused on throughout our childhood was being together and experiencing things together. I know now that this was often born out of the inability to buy us many of the things our friends had, but at the time it simply seemed like the way our family worked. In the summers we visited the beach what felt like daily, we were frequent visitors of the zoo (which at the time was a mere few dollars’ entry); a large playground in the city park was also a favorite spot. Some of my favorite memories with my mom are from our times hiking around NorthWest River Park, a large preserve/campground with trails, canoes, and playgrounds that could easily be, and was, the event for the day.
Although I bring these moments up, the places we went don’t really matter to the point I want to make: children will find the happy. None of these cost my mom very much, if anything, but to say I would have been happier going on Caribbean vacations every Christmas and theme parks every week of summer? I don’t believe I can. Of course, no one is going around saying those things are bad, and I would likely have been delighted had that been our family’s lifestyle. What I am saying is that if you don’t have a lifestyle that competes with those around you, don’t beat yourself up. You have all the tools needed to make your children happy, and I’ll bet if you asked them, they would tell you so.
It is only now that I have become a mother myself, as well as worked with dozens of children and their families at school, that I have come to appreciate the unique childhood that I had. Unique in that despite all that I “didn’t have,” by our socio-economic standards, I remember being so happy. Our children want our time and love. That is what makes them happy. I suppose that’s what makes most people happy! It is just very easy to forget when Pinterest and Old Navy ads and the mom down the street all make it seem like our kids require so much to be content. They don’t. We know it, but yet we fall back in that trap. My daughter is not even talking yet and already I want to make sure I get the most educationally sound toys to entertain her with. Do you know what we did this afternoon? Followed a butterfly around the yard for 15 minutes. And she was so happy. That brought me back down to reality a bit. We were both captivated, her by the butterfly and me by her.
She won’t remember this day, but I hope I will. When those feelings of inadequacy or anxiety creep in and have me questioning once again, I want to remember these butterfly days. It won’t always be this simple, but at the heart of it all the message remains: our kids will remember the happy, and they will remember that they were happy with us.