What is happiness?
The dictionary defines ‘Happiness’ as 1) The quality of state of being happy 2) Good fortune, pleasure, contentment, joy. Is that what we think of when we hear the word ‘happiness’?
I was at a parenting event today talking about creating happiness and it really had me thinking about ‘happiness’. Did I have enough of it? Do my daughters have enough happiness? Is my wife happy? Is my mother and family happy? Are my friends happy with me? Am I happy with them? Do I create happiness around other people? I learned a long time ago that I had to be happy with my situation and my current ‘state’ – whether that was happiness, anger, sadness or frustration. And, as a baba, I experience all of those on a daily basis. But, does it make me less of a happy person if I have these feelings? And, the pressure to make all of these people ‘happy’ is overwhelming. Am I failing at being a parent when I use the word ‘no’ about 300 times a day (my oldest, I’m sure, thinks her name is Saffiya but her nick-name is ‘No’)? Are we too determined to trying to create this happiness bubble around us 24/7 because apparently, according to a post I read awhile ago, being happy is the only emotion to create a positive world?
I asked Saffiya (a.k.a. Ms. No) today what made her happy. She said “Snuggling”. I smiled and she walked away casually booting the cat on her way down the hall (I really hope that wasn’t her state of happiness doing that).
It came down to one thing. Happiness is a ‘moment’. It’s a moment that you experience what the dictionary defines it as. The length of that moment doesn’t define you as a person and it shouldn’t make you feel less of a human being or a parent. Or, that you are failing to create a ‘positive world’ when you curse (hopefully in your head) at the guy in front of you on Sheikh Zayed Road that just started weaving through the lanes talking on his cell phone with his kids hanging out the back car windows with no seatbelt at 160km/h. It’s a moment – just like any other emotion that you have. Then, when you have it, its like your brain does a diagnostic on that moment (if you pay enough attention to it) and assesses you on your feeling. You then determine if you like it or not, your reaction and what you do with it.
When I look at my girls or I think about them as I write this, I feel love, sure. But, I feel happiness for a moment at the thought of them making each other crazy in their room over who is cooking on the ‘stove’ (no, its not a real stove). I pick my daughter up from nursery and the second I open the door, everything washes away from the previous hours because I know whats coming. Her big brown eyes look up from the teachers lap, the most massive smile breaks out and she runs to me with her arms stretched farther than she could possibly realise. Her moment of happiness and my moment of happiness collide into one big bear hug as she pats me on the shoulder and nuzzles her face into my arm. My oldest takes her hand and walks her down the school hallway. We venture out into the heat, get in the car and head home as my oldest informs me that she wants to see her friend Daisy right now. I explain we can’t today, she throws a fit for no particular reason other than the fact she’s just spent 5 hours at sports camp and is exhausted, yells at her little sister who yells straight back at her and the moment has disappeared into something else (and its not a happy one).
When you have children, it changes you. Everything about what made you happy before has changed. Those moments you had have completely gone off the end into something so different. You look at them both (or however many you have) and you just sit in awe at how incredibly different these 2 kids are. They came from the same parents, raised the same way, doing the same things. But, as my wife says, ‘they are chalk and cheese’. My oldest is only comforted by her momma when she needs to talk (and my wife has a weird way of pulling things out of her when she knows something is up – probably because the 2 of them are virtually twins in their personalities). My youngest, she is a little me. Her desire is to make us happy and most of all to make us laugh. She’s hilarious. And her performance of ‘Let it go’ (with no words – only a lot of arms, stomping on the ground and facial expressions) rivals any viral video that ever surfaced when Frozen came out. You have 1 and then another and the experiences are so different but so much the same. And you just want to hold onto every second (again, not the vomit ones, but the other stuff, definitely). Watching them creates moments of happiness.
You want to put them in a box and never let them out into the real world knowing whats out there. You want them to keep those moments pure and happy (even with the yelling).
But still, I get jealous of my wife at times because she gets to be out there and networking and conversing with ‘real people’. But then I think about that moment (after the diagnostic thing kicks in) and realise that I’m a big part of raising them to become ‘real people’. I get to be the one that laughs with them, helps create happy moments with that snuggle or colouring a picture together or being the reason those arms are outstretched. I’m the one that gets that most of the time. I get only a certain amount of time to give them their own moments of happiness and I choose this.
To point out, I completely understand the need for 2 parents working. And, I also know that many parents out there would give their arm to be able to be home with their kids but are unable to. I’m blessed in this respect. But, what I can say is that happiness isn’t the 24/7 thing or even staying at home with your kids. Happiness can be 2 minutes of time – talking over dinner, cleaning up, doing the laundry, playing a quick game, tucking into bed, drawing a picture, writing a post-it for their lunch, creating your own song together that you sing every day – just the 2 of you.
What can we do for 2 minutes to make a difference? I may be a stay-at-home baba but I still want to find those 2 minutes extra that I could make a difference. Because it never seems enough but I want to keep finding those opportunities to create happiness.
When I see them with their moment of happiness, my moment is there too, and they collide. Whether they remember it or not, I want them to have as many moments as possible. And, we are all capable of helping create a moment for someone else – especially these little ones we want to raise into ‘real people’. I think THAT is what is going to make a positive world.