Whole Parenting Family

Why I Don’t Care If My Kids Are Happy

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That sounds awful. A mom who doesn’t care if her kids are happy? What kind of a new level of tiger-mom is this??

Adjectives I do not care about as they are proscribed to my children while they are children or adults: happy; productive; smart; or pretty/handsome.

Well some of those, sure. I mean, if your kid isn’t the most prettiest thang ever, okay, we’re all trying to avoid being superficial here. And sure, maybe my kid isn’t super smart but instead is really nice. {Nice is a Minnesotan way of saying a pejorative of any kind, by the way.} And sure, your kid might grow up to work as a menial laborer instead of finding the cure for cancer, so we’ll take that because at least she’s productive.

I’ve written about how I struggle with hoping my kids will be perfectly healthy. I think “productive” kinda falls in those lines. My children might not contribute to society in a tangible, material way. That’s a different post.

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But happy?

Of course we all are seeking happiness! It’s elusive. We’d like it to be purchasable in chocolate form, vino form, or a new outfit via amazon prime. I want my dopamine hit, thank you very kindly.

Why I don’t care if they are happy for their lives is based on my experience that happiness as a feeling doesn’t last. After I gorge myself on ice cream, hoping it will bring lasting joy, surprise, surprise: cue NOT.

And marriage isn’t about lasting happiness, either, as I just wrote a while back.

I don’t want to wish and hope for something that doesn’t last for my kids.

I want them to learn to live a selfless love.

That will give them the tools to to find satisfaction and true joy in living a life of love for others. Loving oneself is a great place to start, but not the end goal.

We talk about this kind of stuff in more kid-friendly terms. We praise them when they choose the bigger piece for their sibling rather than themselves. We talk about giving to others and what it feels like inside when you make a hard but selfless choice.

And although SuperBoy is only four and a half, I see the seeds being sown. The flicker in his eye when he gives his sister the bigger piece, or the toy she’s been coveting after. He looks to me for a thumb’s up. He is proud he made the harder decision.

Lately, it’s been about sharing bigger pieces or toys in question. Or holding it together when your screaming wakes up the baby. But soon it will be more about giving each other the emotional support they need from one another as siblings. That’s the adult version of selfless love.

I see my parents work tirelessly to help with their grandchildren, always being as present as possible to babysit, educate, shower with gifts, and dedicate their time and attention to cultivating a loving relationship with each child.

I see my sister KK who works two jobs, volunteers in many capacities, and still manages to help me with the kiddos on a regular basis, being their auntie who introducing things like the spleen, gravity, and ping pong balls shooting through cardboard tubing. While our guests were in town she tirelessly cleaned dishes and played with the kids so I could cook!

I see my sister Bridget come out on a work night to party down to Scythian, bringing us food when we are all sick, and bringing Joe along to juggle for about two hours straight (literal juggling) to entertain the kids while I recovered from my terrible stomach flu. Today she picked up my broken iPhone, brought it to the store, got it replaced, and returned it. What love!

I see my sister Molly and her unwavering support of all my late night text complaints about anything under the sun, and her business savvy helping me develop some of my own ideas.

I see my brother send thoughtful gifts to his two Godsons, always on the lookout for something they’d truly deeply madly love. And he leaves me the sweetest voice mails.

I seem my loving husband scoop up all three kids and snuggle with them, saying their prayers and reading to them at night. He cares for us all in his laughing loving way.

I want so much for deep friendships between my kids as they grow, as I have with my own family of origin. We are all still loyal and strong because we accept each other as we are, and are willing to put the other person first. That’s what I want for them.

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  1. Laura @ Mothering Spirit on March 2, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Yes. Love this. Nailed it.
    I think about this question (like I think about EVERYTHING, yawn, broken record over here) through the lens of vocation: what I want for my kids is that they will be able to share their gifts with those who need them. In religious terms, I think this is how they love and serve God by loving and serving others. But this has nothing to do with intelligence or productivity or ability or any other quality by which society measures accomplishment. It mostly has to do with faithful, selfless love. Which is exactly what you said. <3

    • Natural Mama Nell on March 3, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Never stop that record: I LOVE your perspective!!! Beautiful.

  2. Sully on March 2, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I love love LOVE this. my two girls are just shy of 14 months apart, and I am already trying so hard to foster a gentle, loving relationship between them.

    • Natural Mama Nell on March 3, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      They might not be happy with each other, but they have each other and that relationship is so special! (says the 4th of 5 kids!)

  3. Celia on March 2, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Yes, I agree. I wish I had something more witty or intelligent to add to the conversation besides that, but I’m 36 weeks pregnant and my brain cells have been pouring out my ears. 🙂 I love your attitude, though.

    • Natural Mama Nell on March 3, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Your preggie brain is way more capable than my non-preggie brain so I just love when you chime in!

  4. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany on March 2, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Oh my goodness. I am going to sound like a moron here, but I never really thought about it this way. I mean, I agree, and I try to teach my kids these things too, but thinking about it specifically as not trying to focus on being happy but rather on learning selfless love. . . Whoa. I. Love. It. You’ve got me pondering. . .

    • Natural Mama Nell on March 3, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      hahah not a moron at all!

  5. beth on March 3, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Exactly. Happiness is a choice.

    • Natural Mama Nell on March 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      It really is. It’s not a permanent state of being either. My kids will be happy and unhappy throughout their lifetime, but if they’re equipped with the ability to love beyond themselves, they can more readily be in a position to choose happiness!

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