Where Our Happiness Meets

January 16, 2010

A child's happiness is a funny thing to quantify or categorize, but it is certainly the end all and be all of what I do. I am a parent. And no matter how many errands I have to run, deadlines I need to meet, to do list that must be checked off, my goal at the end of the day is always the same: to ensure my children's happiness.

But how do you accomplish that? Is it as easy as checking off their Christmas lists and making sure each gift is accounted for? Clearly, it's not. Stuff isn't what it's all about. Oh sure, my six-year-old son bounces with glee while he plays Lego Star Wars on the Wii. And there was no happier child than my three-year-old chasing around his remote control car on Christmas morning. But my children also find as much joy collecting sticks in the backyard or playing hide and seek under my dining room table. The stuff only seems to access their joy, not define it.

So where else can I find my child's happiness? I am surprised by the contentment my children find during the small moments. Their delight is contagious while they run through the rain or watch a dog jump into a lake or hide under a blanket or hear the same silly jokes of my husband's again and again. These everyday moments are simply their own spontaneous miracles of cheer. While on my continued mission to keep my children happy, I know that I am getting closer to my goal in these precious, unexpected moments.

I also find that contact is at the root of much of their contentment. When my husband or I sit on the couch, they are on us in an instant. Snuggled close, touching our cheeks, fiddling with my hair, curling themselves inside my sweater (while I'm still wearing it), holding hands, fitting into every possible corner, hollow or crevice around us. And then, once we're settled, my children are entirely blissed out. Contact and comfort seem as about important to their level of happy as food is to their level of hunger.

However, as I work to get to the crux of my child's happiness, I ultimately find that my pursuit brings me further from the stuff in their toy boxes and closer to, well, me. If I hide under the dining room table with them, their delight is palpable. If I wrap them up in a blanket with me and read a story, their contented glee keeps us warm. And as I find that their joy involves me, I find my own joy involves them too.

Perhaps it is as predictable as the concept of a happy mother raising happy children because it seems that their happiness has a lot more to do with me than I ever realized. Maybe where their joy ends, mine picks up -- and vice versa. Or maybe it's all really just all the same now. Regardless, while I stoke and fan and coddle the possibilities of their delight throughout the day, I've realized that I usually find mine along the way too. And it's currently snuggled in my lap, talking about a puppet show, while I type the last words of this post. Not surprisingly, we are both very happy.


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