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I Don’t Want My Children to Just Be Happy

“I Don’t Want My Children to Just Be Happy” originally appeared on The Good Men Project and was reprinted with permission. 

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

“I just want my children to be happy.” How many times have I heard parents say this? The proclamation comes off as if it is wise and understanding.

But it gets worse!

There’s the addition, “Know what I mean?”

Look, if you are saying you don’t want your children to grow up and be miserable … well, then, of course I know what you mean. What parent does?

But if you mean something like my only wish for my children is for them to be happy —  then, no I don’t know what you mean. In fact, I don’t even believe you. I’m sure you want more than mere happiness for your child.

After all, there is so much more to want for your children than happiness.

Happiness is a fleeting emotion. It can be derived from eating a cookie.

It can be derived from watching a SpongeBob episode. It can be derived from getting a good score in a video game.

Now, I like a chocolate chip cookie, or just about any cookie for that matter, as much as the next person, but the moment I swallow the last delicious crumbs, the happiness is gone too.

Sure, I want my kids to be silly and enjoy the things that kids do. I want them to revel in their youth and find pleasure in the small things.

But, I don’t want my children to just be happy.

After all, happiness can be selfish and harmful.

The drug addict might tell you the drugs make him/her happy, or at least, they did at one point. The thief may say robbing others makes him/her happy. The sloth who lies around doing nothing all day may say this lifestyle makes him/her happy.

No, I don’t want my children to be happy.

I want so much more for them.

I want my children to travel to far off places, listen to beautiful music, read fine works of literature, eat delicious foods, and soak up the wisdom. I want my children to recognize that life is beautiful and to enjoy it.
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I want my children to be sensitive to the needs of others. They should recognize, see, and even sense when others are in pain. People need people. I want my children to recognize that the world is not only about them and feel a desire to ease the plight of others.

I want my children to recognize right from wrong. While we live in a world that seems to believe that anything goes, some things are wrong. All the explanation, double-talk, and reasoning doesn’t change that. And some things are right. I want my children to know that.

I want my children to take their responsibilities seriously. It’s fun to be on vacation, to take a day off, to veg out. Great. Enjoy.  And then remember … people are counting on you. Those people will include family, friends, and colleagues. I want my children to strive to be their best and be equal to those responsibilities.

I want my children to relish challenges and approach them with confidence. Everyone goes through difficulties — some are more challenging than others. The goal is not to avoid challenges but to stand up to them and do the best you can when times are tough. I want my children to be able to cope with challenges.

I want my children to feel content. There will always be someone who has more — wealth, prestige, popularity, etc.  Some spend their lives comparing and feeling less than if they see others with more. I want my children to utilize the gifts they’ve been given, work to their fullest, and be content with their lot.

I want my children to sample the beauty God put into this world. They should travel to far off places, listen to beautiful music, read fine works of literature, eat delicious foods, and soak up the wisdom and knowledge. I want my children to recognize that life is beautiful and to enjoy it.

I don’t want my children to just be happy.

I want so much more for them.

And I bet you do too!

Know what I mean?

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