Our Children Don't Make Me Happy

By

mom with baby
One woman discovers that her sense of happiness does not need to come from her children.

It was time to rediscover some of it. I began laying the groundwork: I hired sitters, found a running partner, and signed up for a writing class. And my spirits buoyed. There was a calm place within me to which I could retreat when I felt overwhelmed, friends to boost my mood. I was thankful for every moment I spent with our son, but my happiness wasn't hinged to his.

And then one day our son came home angry at his friend for cheating at chess. With flushed cheeks he sat down on a counter stool. "I'm never playing with him again!" he said, and, as I sliced an apple, I could feel his emotion stirring within me. He shared the same logical mind as his dad. Ever since he'd turned two, he expected fairness, demanded it. I'd prided myself in understanding him best, but now knew there was a danger to that: where was his incentive to know his own mind if I always read it for him? Want To Be A Happy Parent? Stop Trying So Hard

He bit into his apple, chewing slowly, methodically. "What are you going to do about it?" I asked, and I could see his wheels churning as he stared off into space. He set his apple on his plate.

"I could tell him I won't play with him if he cheats," he said moments later, brightening.

"That sounds like a good idea," I said, drying my hands on a dish towel. He slid off his stool and wandered off in search of his sword. And this time, as I loaded his snack plate into the dishwasher, I smiled without tears. Because every test we undergo strengthens us, and teaches us of our own character. And this incident had tested us both: Could I let go, and would he pick up the slack? I had, and he did. I'd let go of my expectation that he was responsible for my happiness, and therefore let go of him. We'd both grown because of it, and I'd argue spiritual growth trumps happiness any day.

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