Sometimes I have to remind myself of this one important fact…it is NOT my job to make anybody happy, especially my kids. Yes, I want them to be happy. I want that with all of my heart. But, here’s the thing…there is going to be frustration and unhappiness, no matter what I do. That is just part of life. Some of my kids get frustrated more frequently than others, and they often cannot contain their frustration, so it becomes a family affair. More often than not, their anger is directed towards me. I have assumed the role of the resident “bad guy,” instead of the provider of happiness. If you come over to my house at any given moment, you will likely find somebody who is unhappy because something is not going their way. That is usually my fault (in their eyes), and they let me know in no uncertain terms that I am the cause of all of their woes.
OK. I’m getting used to that role – the bearer of bad tidings and unhappiness.
Do I enjoy that role? Not particularly. Of course I prefer happy kids. Keep in mind, though, that nobody can “make” anybody happy. Period. It is up to each person to discover their own happiness. Sometimes I temporarily forget that and say things like, “I cannot make you happy, no matter what I do.”
I have decided that trying to make my kids happy is not part of my job description. As I see it, here are the things that my job as a mother requires:
- It is my job to see that my children are adequately clothed and fed. (I’m not talking name brands and clothing that will ensure that they are accepted by the popular crowd.)
- It is my job to make sure that those children are academically educated and prepared for future job opportunities.
- It is my job to provide them with a solid religious base by creating a home where faith is taught, lived, and shared.
- It is my job to teach them how to work…hard.
- It is my job to teach them how to cook, keep house, and understand money.
- It is my job to teach them that they are not entitled to everything that they want…EVER…not even as an adult.
- It is my job to teach them how to take care of their bodies and keep themselves healthy.
- It is my job to arm them with real world skills that will foster independence and self-reliance.
- It is my job to provide them with love and emotional support throughout their lives.
- It is my job to be a strong example of good morals and teach them how to develop and apply those morals in their own lives.
- It is my job to teach them how to be kind.
- It is my job to teach them how to serve others.
- It is my job to encourage them to trust in their own capacity to make a difference in the world.
The following things are NOT included in my job description:
- I will not do everything in my power to see that my children don’t feel unhappiness.
- I will not protect them from the consequences of their behavior, even if that causes them to feel anger or frustration. How will they learn otherwise?
- I will not bend the rules when they break them, and I won’t make exceptions on a daily basis. I WILL make them answer for their choices.
- I will not let them have their way when they throw a fit. Peace is not worth that price.
- I will not do all of the work around the house in order to save my children from doing anything unpleasant, or to save myself from having to listen to their endless complaining.
- I will not give them whatever they want, especially if that means denying them the latest gadgets and toys that “everybody else has.”
- I will not buy them name brand clothing that I cannot afford, even if that means that they won’t fit into the “popular” crowd at school.
Maybe these examples are a little extreme. I’m sure that most people do not try THAT hard to make their kids happy (although some most certainly do.) Most of us really try to do what we feel is best for our kids, and then get frustrated when our hard work results in unhappy children who complain about not having everything that they want…and about doing chores…and about practicing the piano…and about accepting consequences for their own behavior… etc.
I kind of decided this awhile ago, but I am making it official today – I’m done trying to make my kids happy. It is a pointless exercise. Instead, I will do my level best to carry out my job description as I see it. My hope is that these children of mine will learn to discover happiness along the way. If I am successful at teaching them all of the things on my list, they will hopefully learn that happiness comes through service, faith, hard work, and good old-fashioned kindness. It does not come from getting everything that you want.
Lets face it, though, kids will be kids…they tend to forget that the world does not revolve around them…and these lessons will likely take years to teach. Some kids catch on quicker than others. And, some are born naturally happy. Hopefully you all have a house full of those kids.
But, if not…
Toss away the guilt.
Accept the reality that you love your children too much to constantly give them what they want in an effort to make them happy. This will breed many more problems, not the least of which is entitlement.
This does not make you a bad mom. This makes you a GOOD mom.
If your kids are unhappy with you from time to time, you must be doing something RIGHT.
I am convinced that someday down the road (maybe far down the road), we will be able to look back on all of this “unhappiness” with our kids and get a good laugh out of it. Someday it will be funny that I was a “dream killer” when I told Jordan that he could not drop out of school and train for the Olympic swim team after one summer of swimming competitively. (OK, that one is already funny.) Someday it will be hilarious that we did not give Elise an iPod touch for years after she started asking for one (and asking…and complaining incessantly…), even though EVERYONE ELSE HAD ONE…EVEN HER FRIEND’S TWO YEAR OLD SISTER!! Someday it will be hysterical that Kate, when asked to put her clothes away at age four, broke out into singing an angry “Look down, look down, you’ll always be a slave,” from Les Miserables. (OK that is already pretty funny as well.)
See, there is humor in temporary unhappiness…after you are removed from it for a little while.
So, stay the course. Happiness is all a matter of perspective.