Catching Happiness

I love this quote! I use it a lot in classes I teach for PEP (Parent Encouragement Program).  PEP is based on democratic parenting. It’s neither permissive (child in charge), nor autocratic (parent in charge). EVERYONE is entitled to, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” PURSUIT, people. Not acquisition, nor fulfillment, or purchase or trade of happiness from one to another. Each of us has the right to pursue our own happiness.

Giving our child happiness – a toy, laissez-faire bedtime, letting them leave their crap all over, saving their butts regularly by driving forgotten work to school ain’t gonna teach them how to catch happiness themselves.

AND – parents, I hate to tell you, same goes for us. When we demand a semester of little Tom receiving all green lights, or darling Eliza making the travel soccer team, or dear Nathan having copious social engagements, or Joe getting into the college of our dreams - we are asking them to catch happiness for us.

Let's examine, ponder, explore, where we are giving away happiness and satisfaction. Anywhere the child might do better catching happiness on his own?  Do we fill his calendar with so many social/extra-curricular activities that he only needs to show up? Consider, it’s a different skill set to show up then it is to decide, and pursue, on your own, what you might like - karate, or piano, or filmmaking, or fencing, or video games, or nothing (gasp!).

Alternately, am I so obsessed with my kids lives, grades, friends, weight, room that I overlook my own life, work, friends, weight and room? It’s much less anxiety provoking trying to fix up someone else then it is to look at, and start to work on our own “stuff”. Catching happiness for another feels easier, seductive and compelling because we don’t have to worry about disappointment in ourselves. If they aren’t happy – well, we can give them a lecture. If they don't follow through, we can give them a lecture. If we chase happiness and aren’t happy, or if we start chasing happiness and don't follow through . . . ugh! We have to feel our own disappointment, discouragement and shame.

Where are we unhappy that we might do better focusing on ourselves, rather then nagging a child? Where are we giving happiness to our child? Where are we demanding happiness from our child? Shall we spend this next week catching our own happiness and leave it up to our kids to catch their own?

Adapted from April 2016 Glover Park Gazette Parenting in the Park column.