Recently, I read a post on someone else’s blog that basically said it was not her responsibility to make her kids happy. And I agreed with all of her points. My top priority is not always to give in to making my kids happy.
It is my responsibility to teach them to be kind, loving, patient, considerate, etc. It is my responsibility to tell them “no” when they want something that is bad for them. It is my responsibility to raise them ‘in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
I am the nurse, the housekeeper, the cook, the disciplinarian, the teacher, the taxi driver – the list goes on and on.
But the other day, the kids were playing while I was folding the laundry, and my son started begging me to push him on the swing. It is his favorite activity in our backyard, and he would stay on the swing for hours if I let him. But I had laundry to fold, so I said, “No.” His little face fell, but he ran off to find something else to do.
It was in that moment that I realized I was missing an opportunity to make my kid happy, which made me think back to that other mom’s post. And I am sure that she would agree with me, too, that we don’t always have to miss out on being a part of our children’s happiness. We just don’t need to cater to it in this “all-about-me” society.
Somewhere along the way, we have redefined “happiness.” If our kids want it, we’re going to give it to them. Last night, my husband and I were out for our anniversary at a very expensive restaurant (thanks to a gift card given to us). We never get to go anywhere quite that nice. But sitting in the booth next to us were three young kids, probably ages five to 10. There was no “kids menu” at this restaurant, so I am not sure the kids were really appreciating where they were eating. And then the 10-year-old pulled out of his pocket an iPhone 5. Now it could have been his parents’ phone, but it did not appear to be from where we were sitting. And I am sure he is not the only 10-year-old who has the newest smartphone! Many parents will pay any amount if it will make their kid “happy.”
We give in to our kids because it’s easier than fighting with them. It’s easier to take the latest game with us to a restaurant rather than teach them to act civilized in public. It’s easier to buy them a new iPod than deal with the whining that usually comes with not getting their own way. We give, they take, and we wonder what is happening to the next generation.
We need to get back to the basics of pursuing happiness. Our kids don’t need us to buy them the newest item on the market because it will change in just a few months. Rather than “keeping up with Joneses,” we should be trying to keep up with our kids as they race out to the swing set. Our kids need us to teach them how to be productive members of society. They need us to teach them good manners. They need us to teach them to try new things.
Rather than allowing them to disappear behind their iPods and smartphones, we need to get our kids plugged back in to the world around them!
And in return, we need to get plugged back in to them. I admit it, it’s easy to get lost in the world of social media or the newest app on my iPod. And I am not saying that these devices are evil and should never be used! But we need to remember that happiness isn’t found in the online world. Our kids need us – whether or not they know it!
You should have seen the look on my son’s face when he saw me put down the laundry, take him by the hand, and lead him to the swings! He couldn’t contain his happiness; it bubbled over and burst forth, echoing throughout the neighborhood. With each push of the swing, his giggles got louder and louder; and before long, I couldn’t help but start laughing right along with him!
It was such a simple thing for me to do, but it changed his entire day. It was a moment that I had almost missed, a second in time that is over too fast.
I agree that my main responsibility is not to make my children happy. But I do think it falls under my job description! We live in a busy society with every minute of every day taken up with extracurricular activities; but we seldom slow down, put down the basket of laundry, and simply surround ourselves with our children’s laughter.
Whether your children are two or 22, are you making each moment count? When is the last time you spent real, quality time with them? When did you last actually listen to them? When was the last time you praised them? It is your job to make your children happy, but we need to go back to the basics of true happiness. Happiness is not about getting things. It is about loving and being loved in return. It is about feeling valued. It is about the simple moments. Don’t let them slip through your fingers!
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Ja. 4:14).