Monday, June 27, 2011

Is Happiness Is Overrated?

Lest anyone think this is going to be yet another bout of deranged, middle-aged vituperation, it's not. I am the same man who has accused most parents of believing they gave birth to the Baby Jesus, but these are just some thoughts generated on reading this article that was the talk of the Baby/Mommy Blogs last week:


Dont worry. You can click it. It is safe for work. It's a very thoughtful article on the much-discussed subject of the deleterious effects of raising your children with too much affirmation and validation. It raises some interesting points, many of which I agree with wholeheartedly. My reservation may be that denying and depriving them of such affirmation and validation is worse, but that doesn't negate the salient points within. There is probably a balance somewhere but even that is probably more dependent on the individual child than any rule of applied, sustained parenting technique. It's not a one size fits all situation. I have witnessed in my own children, the need for very separate approaches. It may be argued that this recognition came far too late, but that's another story. I am sure that there are as many ways to fuck up your child as there are children, and maybe more.

One of these ways, I am also certain, is to raise them in an emotional terrarium, protected from not only the outside world, but from the consequences of their bad instincts.

We are also doing ourselves and our children no favors when we suffer under the pressure and delusion that we can right every wrong, thereby guaranteeing them the perpetual happiness we are convinced that we deserved but were denied in our own childhoods.

The article put me on a train of thought, though, about the premium we put on our own perpetual happiness. We actually STRUGGLE to find happiness and to be happy, and that presents a conundrum. How can we be happy if we are struggling, firstly? What is it that we think we need or deserve that we are struggling for? Secondly, how do we inure ourselves or reconcile the inevitable obstacles we face during this struggle? How do we reconcile failure to achieve the goals that we have convinced ourselves we need to achieve? When do we let go and find out how happy we can be without these things?

I'm not talking about settling, nor complacency. I'm talking about letting go of what might be driving us beyond our abilities to attain. I'm talking about contentment. I'm talking also, about accepting that things don't always work out the way we would like them to.

We then, as we become parents, combine these drives into a double helix. We are genetically engineering our dissatisfaction as parents, dissatisfaction for our children when they discover to their dismay that the world is bigger than each and all of us... and we predict their unhappiness as adults just as certainly as if we sold them into Dickensian servitude at 11 years old.

Again, the article, despite it's Apocalyptic title, raises some very good points. It merits mention, however, that we cannot protect our children from the realities of the universe with any more certainty than we have protected ourselves. We are ultimately not responsible for their happiness, and we'd better think hard on what happiness really entails before we shoot for it.

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