Why helping my kids be happy means letting them be miserable

Would you want your kids to be happy all the time? I’ve realised, I wouldn’t. It’s official. I am horrid.

I pondered last week what aspirations I have for our kids. I initially thought that anything that made them happy might suffice. On the back of that post,  I received a pingback from a lovely post by Julia & Julla . Her blog made me think about happiness as a state of mind, rather than a goal to be achieved. And I started to wonder if I would always choose my state of mind to be ‘happy’.

There was a time in my life – mid to late twenties – where my life looked like it might not pan out so great. A favourite grandparent died suddenly.  My fiancé had an affair. I had to cancel our wedding with 4 weeks notice. My job was killing me. I was broke. Our house was half way through a massive rebuild, which meant I could walk out on nothing. It was hard.  But in retrospect I am fond of that melancholy period. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely all a bit shit, but I don’t regret having those experiences, or the melancholy that came with them.

I then got to thinking about a great little exercise that will be familiar to many: that of asking yourself the question,

If you could swallow a pill that would make you really happy for the rest of your life, would you take it?

I am guessing the drug isn’t illegal, doesn’t cause kidney failure and doesn’t cause mass suffering to 3rd world countries who grow the Happy Drug rather than food (although, if they popped the pill, what would they care if they were starving?)

I digress, the point is that I decided when I was 20 that I would not want that pill. And I have decided now that I wouldn’t want my kiddies to have it either. Why?

First off,  let’s take away the obvious  challenge of, if you are always happy, being able to rape, pillage and murder without but a care. Let’s assume the pill doesn’t let us do that.

Let’s assume that we are pootling along, and the pill ensures day to day events don’t get us down:  it’s raining – yippee, I love my wellies; the oven breaks on Christmas day –  yeay, a Christmas BBQ sounds soooo exciting; our beloved has an affair- I suppose the trust in our relationship has broken down, but hey, I admire his spirit ; our sibling gets really ill – that what does not kill us makes us stronger; our child dies….to still feel happy? I’m not sure some of this is working for me.

In something as awful as losing a child to death, a loved one to another person, or even just all of our worldy ‘stuff’, I think I would want to feel something other than happiness. And there must be many other instances you can think of like this.  Sometimes, for me, experiencing the human condition with all of its ups and downs is more desirable than just being happy.

Mum wished her family eternal happiness....until she met an untimely end. (She also wishes she could draw/upload images from other websites).

Mum wished her family eternal happiness….until she met an untimely end. (She also wishes she could draw/upload images from other websites).

Just a few moments ago I stumbled upon another blog.  I am trying to make my blog look more appealing (tips please!!!) and I got pointed to this one. http://jayjayne.com/2013/09/11/speaking-of-depression/ It looks FAB but also has a great current post.

In the post, Jayjayne is talking about depression.  I am clearly not tackling the clinical issue of depression in this post. But still, a quote in her blog resonates:

“Now this is all going to sound corny and slightly ludicrous, but this is honestly what I’ve learnt – firstly, just as there is light there is shadow, where there’s sadness there will always be happiness. Secondly, when you can admit fault or weakness, it can only make you stronger”

I want night and day, I want the pain of labour to experience the pleasure of birth, I want to fail so I can become stronger, I want to know what it is like to not have much so I can appreciate the times of plenty. I want the same for my sons (not the giving birth bit. That would be weird).

Not only do I want my sons to be equipped with an ability to identify which paths are the ‘good’ paths, I want them to be equipped to decide when it is best to choose the harder route, over the more comfortable one. I want them to be strong enough to make it to the end of some of the tougher journeys. When they get lost, I want them to come back stronger.

If they get hurt, of course I want to ease their suffering. But eliminate it entirely and replace it with unquestionning happiness? No.

Eventually the boys will walk their path with others, or alone. Before that we will be there to guide them now and again. Right now the boys are small. We are not so much guiding them towards the road we think most suitable, but carrying them up the roads we choose for ourselves. I’m not sure I know where we are going but while we might not always be happy, I’ve got a feeling we might be on the right route.


21 thoughts on “Why helping my kids be happy means letting them be miserable

  1. tara says:

    I’ve just found your blog & I love it. I couldn’t agree more. It makes me ponder how we help our children to become resilient? How the small acts of parenting on a daily basis allow them to grow in confidence in dealing with whatever life throws at them…


    • Mary says:

      Thank you Tara. I am new to blogging, so your encouraging words mean a lot. It’s great to find a medium where the questions i have can be indulged. Who knows, we might agree on some answers in the future!


    • Mary says:

      That manifesto is quite powerful isn’t it – thinking about how we treat ourselves in front of our children has to be good, right?

      Thank you for your lovely comments.


  2. weebluebirdie says:

    I loathe how my darker side can bring me down too easily sometimes. But I’m fortunate in being a Functioning Depressive, I only fall so far and reach a plateau where I can still get by. The flip side of my sensitivity to Life means I can also soar to giddiness just as easily. The quirkiness of Life puts me right back up there. I had great fun yesterday when I was on a train on a coastal line, my nose pressed up against the window when we went by coves with waves crashing below. In fact, I even wrote a Haiku and drew a wee sketch for my blog!! I’m fortunate in having enough Hope to know that I will lift myself out of the flatness. I wouldn’t take the happy pill either – I’d miss the kicks of seeing world differently.


    • Abby Boid says:

      Your comments mean a lot to me. I was very wary when writing this post of friends who do need to take medication to help them manage their depression, and I was worried that the whole piece of writing could come across as rather flippant.
      Hope – that’s so important isn’t it? And seeing the world differently – so long as our perspective is not destroying us, then I would not give that up for little Miss Sunshine’s tablet.


  3. itsallbuki says:

    Reblogged this on itsallbuki and commented:
    While we may all want to make our kids happy, we need to be mindful that the happiness they will appreciate and thank you for is not in today, It’s the discipline you give today and give both you and your children happiness and peace of mind in the future which surpasses the temporary misery you think you are giving today. I love this post so much, I had to share. Please visit the main post and be kind enough to leave her your thoughts on this.


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