I read it again today; heard it on TV last week. Here’s the scenario: child gets in a bind, struggles, must admit vulnerability, turns to parent for support. Then, amid sappy music (even if provided in your head)…
“But I tried so hard! I just want you to be proud of me.”
“Honey if you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”
“Really?” They sniff.
“Really. That’s all your father and I ever wanted for you. We just want you to be happy.” Big hug. Wipe a tear from your own eyes. Gag if you’d like.
Now before you accuse me of being a grump, I have to protest with the weakness of these parents’ goals. Happiness? Really? That’s it? It’s not just in media. I’ve heard real, in-the-flesh parents say the same thing. Sure I want my kids to be happy but if that’s the chief goal of their lives, they’re in for some shocking moments.
The truth is, happiness seems to be our default setting anyway. We all will naturally choose it, so let’s push ourselves and our kids just a little bit more. If my only goal is happiness for them, then they won’t reach beyond an elementary level in anything, won’t leave home with domestic discipline, won’t stretch themselves in academics, will always have homogeneous relationships…
I want them to try harder, be uncomfortable sometimes, take a risk, feel awkward, be confused, see injustice, feel empathy. Which of us adults have escaped any of that? Don’t these make us better, more sensitive people? I want my kids to check their own preferences at the door sometimes and go out of their way for another. I want them to be moved to action when angered by something grossly unfair. I want them to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves. I want them to work harder and more ethically because it’s the right thing to do; not because their boss is watching. I want them to push themselves to understand, not just know.
I could go on and on. Will any of the aforementioned make them happy? Maybe not immediately. These actions will build over their lifetimes and as they mature, they will see that God does not wish for their happiness exclusively, either. They’re meant for something far higher than mere happiness. They will know their purpose when they become the created one the Created One created them to be. (can’t take credit for that great line, but I quote it here aptly.) And that might involve some unhappiness along the way; but it will also mean their lives have more depth and breadth and that, I think, will make them, their parents, their peers, and their God very happy indeed.