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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life, Lunch, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Recently I had lunch with a friend who was discussing with me her concerns that her daughter wasn’t getting invited to certain social events, or wasn’t always included within the pack of girls she considered her friends. The mom said she would express her concern over such matters to her child, but she would say “mom, I really don’t care…it doesn’t bother me in the least”. I asked my friend, “is your concern, that it really is bothering her?” She said, “no, I really don’t think it does bother her”. And I could tell on some level perhaps that was what was perplexing to the mom. It is hard to know as a parent in situations like this with your child what to say, how to say it, or do you decide not to say anything at all.

Starting down the road of parenthood, there is so many unknowns and we can’t wait for the next achievement. At first, we are just monitoring them to make sure they are healthy and reach all the milestones within the norm. Then they go off to school and you hope please let my child not be bullied, or worse…be the bully. You pray they are kind, and thoughtful, and secretly you hope that academics will come easy for them. I use to tell everyone that I named my children Mark and Luke so that I was assured that they would at least be able to spell their names by the time they were in Kindergarten. Little did I know that my biggest concern would be that one of them insisted on sliding into the reading area as if he was running to home plate for the winning run. Apparently, in the “teacher world” this meant he was socially immature. As I am listening to my son’s teacher talk about such incidences with disapproval I am thinking to myself “it is a good thing you weren’t at my home a couple years ago when this same child dropped his pants and did his (#2) business in my front yard with onlookers across the street. Or when this same child stuck a dehydrated blueberry up his nose and it took five people holding him down at the E.R. to extract it”. I don’t know about you, but with that kind of past social lack of judgment on my child’s part, I wasn’t taking her sliding into the reading area concerns too seriously, obviously I had bigger issues than that. But slowly, my child outgrew his fetish for putting things in his nose and ears (I still don’t know what on earth possesses kids to do that) and he also learned to at least do his business in private…sadly not always in a bathroom. Even my 14 year old gets lazy about that. What’s with boys…just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Yes my kids have issues, and like my friend I do worry that they will be socially accepted for who they are. But I also told her that her concern that her child feels included was something that follows us into adulthood. And that she needs to rethink how she is viewing her daughter’s situation. I told her that she should be forever grateful that her daughter doesn’t care that she isn’t included. To me that means she is comfortable with who she is even at such a young age. And to know that now about herself is such a gift. That in life, we don’t need a lot of friends, we just need the right friends for us. I also told her that “in my prayers I always ask one thing of the lord when it comes to my children…that they will always be content with who they are”. Because I feel that so many children and adults make themselves unhappy by trying to be someone they are not, by living up to someone else’s expectations of success, or look, dress, and act a certain way because society says that is what is cool, and will make you loved by your peers. Being in honors classes, or playing every sport…or later, having a big house, driving the right kind of car or cars, being a member of the country club, or a member of some social circle…it doesn’t make the person. And it certainly doesn’t make a person happy in the long term.

When it comes to happiness, “think small.” A study with America's elders at Cornell University revealed that we must be aware and attentive to small pleasures in daily life, even as we may be waiting for something in our lives to change. Seniors are consciously grateful for what they have, right now, rather than pinning their happiness on future achievements or possessions. How nice it would be if we all acknowledged that concept sooner rather than later in life.

I believe what makes us all “content” as humans is an inner core belief, and just a knowing of oneself. It is definitely not the stuff we accumulate, which is all that is…stuff. Friends will come and go our entire life, many of us will feel rich and poor within our life time, we will go from relying on shelter from our parents, to squatter-like quarters in college, to ultimately for many owning your own home. The only difference you will find with people is some will take what they have for granted, other’s will feel entitled to it, and lucky are those who are “content” and appreciative of who they are, what they have, the contributions they make to their fellow man, and the person they have become.

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. ~A.A. Milne


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