Monday, January 9, 2012

The Happiness Trap

When you get right down to it, parents and grandparents have the same goal for their children. They just want them to be happy all the time.

What you think might make a child happy is not necessarily what the child needs or wants. Our need is to continue to take care of them but their need is to become independent and self sufficient.

Realistically, no one is happy all the time. Life is made up of a range of emotions but as parents and grandparents we get caught up in the "Happiness Trap."

When a child is very young we are needed, and that tends to make us happy. But as a child matures, that need for our constant loving presence diminishes.

Here is an example. A 19 year old comes home from college for the holidays. As is typical, he stays out late with friends, and sleep past noon. Mom waits for his door to open and immediately runs to the kitchen to brew fresh coffee and make him a big breakfast, even though the refrigerator is full, and he is capable of making his own breakfast. He waits for his mother to do it, because that has always been the pattern. When asked why she still does this, the mom responds, "it's one of the few things I can still do that makes him happy."

Even for our college aged grandchildren, we fret if that child isn't 100 percent happy. The most important gift we can give is letting them know that we are confident in their ability to make their own decisions and feel confident, capable and in charge of their own futures.

But.... We still hope they will be "happy."

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