Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Happiness

If you ask parents what we want for our children, many of us would answer, "that they grow up to be healthy and happy," without hesitation.

But when we say that, the words are laden with hidden meaning. When I say that I want my daughter to grow up to be happy, I have certain suppositions about what it means to be happy. Most of us do.

When I think of happiness, it's all tied in somehow with a partner, a family, a secure home, financial stability, education, friends, professional success, and leisure for relaxation. I can't imagine being truly happy without these things.

Every day, parents have to face their children making different choices than we would choose for them. A mother's heart breaks to see her child deciding to drop out of college to pursue other interests, thinking, "She'll never go back! She'll never get her degree!" My own mother looked at my cousin the Accomplished Doctor - nearing 40 and single, experiencing inexplicable health problems, working too hard, still wanting marriage and children - and was glad that I didn't choose that path.

Happiness is not always where we expect to find it. But sometimes when we say that we want happiness for our children, we secretly mean that we want for them that which would make us happy.

It's not pretty, but it's true.

4 comments:

trisha said...

Now, see, I don't feel like that. I do genuinely want Robbie to be happy, and I have no expectations at all. Of course, I suffered with a mother who thought she *was* me, and I am scarred. Deeply.

And, R has always been so high maintenance, all I have ever hoped for for him, happiness-wise, is to get through the day without melting down.

Sarahlynn said...

In my original draft (in my head, while I was brushing my teeth last night) I had a bit about those parents who do really just mean it straight out: "I want whatever makes you happy, period."

That fell out of the draft when I typed it out. I think that's great and I'm really trying to get there too, to want just plain happiness for those I love, regardless of whether or not they measure it the way I do.

But I think that so many of us still fall behind on that path and don't always realize it. I didn't, anyway.

Jessica said...

I agree with this wholeheartedly - it feels like a conversation I have had with myself.

It's absolutely subjective...what I think will make my son happy and what he may end up seeking in life could be two different things. When that happens, it's as if we, as parents, need to reconcile it within ourselves and accept that there are other paths, other worlds, other perspectives.

trisha said...

Sarahlynn, I am quite certain I would be much different if Robbie were not exactly who he is. I owe his so much. He has helped me grow in ways I hadn't thought possible, if I even thought of them at all.