Come On, Get Happy

A few weeks ago I found an old Partridge Family episode on TV and couldn't change the channel until the theme song finished.  I used to watch the reruns on Nickelodeon in high school and they were almost better than the Brady Bunch because, singing, dancing, bell bottoms and David Cassidy! (Okay, yes, I had a crush.)

Come on, get happy.  It's quite funny that a television theme song provoked me to think about happiness, expectations and parenting.  (Stay with me here...)

I always feel ridiculous blogging about happiness.  Mostly because everyone has a vastly different definition of what it means to them.  What makes you happy most likely isn't the same for me.

As a longtime blogger and reader of  blogs, I am well aware this topic has been discussed incessantly.  When I first began as a "mommyblogger" fourteen years ago, I read many posts about what happiness should look like as a wife and mother. 

I should be fully present and love every minute of motherhood because the kids grow up fast.  (Really?  When your baby is screaming bloody murder and you've been cluster feeding for days you're probably not loving every minute of that.)

I should be kind and use loving words and never lose my temper.  I should discipline calmly. (Yeah, that's great in theory, but the first time my preschooler wrote on the wall with a black sharpie, I lost my shit.)

I should cook healthy meals and feed my kids only organic fruits and vegetables.  (When the dishes become a perfectly balanced tower in the sink because you've been too tired and busy to get them done, driving through McDonald's for an evil Happy Meal saves your sanity. And that's okay. Take that, Mom Guilt.)

I should take pride in doing chores and making a home for my husband and family.  (Ha ha ha, NO.  Not when the laundry pile is taller than you are.  That's when you realize it would probably be easier to burn the house down.)

Let's get real. I should stop listing examples because "shoulds" are bullshit.  

It's only taken me a decade and a half to realize that no one can tell me how to live my life, be a parent, or do my job.  I'm responsible for my own decisions.  I am accountable for my own actions. The same is true for happiness.

Lately, I've heard several friends say the following words and it triggered a negative reaction for me:  

"I'll be happy when..."

Don't get me wrong.  I was that girl.  I've said those words.  

When my house is spotless, then I can be happy.

When my kids are in college and I have fewer parenting obligations, then I can be happy.

When my relationship with my husband is better, then I will be happy. 

When I achieve success at work, then I will be happy.

But here's the thing about those statements.  Happiness is not contingent upon a series of events that may or may not happen. Being happy isn't something given to us by another person. It's not something that just happens to us.  

Why do we believe that we don't have the power to choose happiness?

True, other people can affect your ability to be happy, and by the same token you can affect the happiness of others.  However, no one but yourself is responsible for your own happiness.  Being happy is a choice. 

I ignored this truth when I was young.  It was easier to push my expectations onto others because then, if things didn't work out, it wasn't my fault.  But as I transitioned from single girl to married woman to mother of three, I learned to hold myself accountable for my choices.  If my life isn't what I want it to be, I'm the only one who can change that.

It's fairly common in our society to believe that we need to do more and be more to be considered valuable.  We are told that we cannot be happy unless we are achieving impossible goals. It is implied that our value increases only when we do more than the other guy. The irony is we are also taught to idealize the lives of others and to discount our own.  

How many times have we scrolled Facebook and felt jealous over what our friends have that we do not? When we obsess over the tiny details we lose sight of the bigger picture.  We become distracted from our own purpose in life. Jealousy, frustration, pettiness and self-pity do not create happy thoughts or feelings, but admiration (for ourselves and others), satisfaction and peace help us move toward happiness.

At this season of my life, I'm realizing my purpose is to parent three boys with vastly different needs.  I'm raising a teenager, a pre-teen and a kindergartner.  Watching them grow and learn is a wild and exhausting ride.  I find myself asking daily, what do I want my boys to learn from me?  What is the most important thing I can teach them?  What examples am I setting?

Who knew a 1970s television show could provide the answer?

I want to teach them how to be happy.  I want them to know that no material thing in this world is going to buy them contentment.  Their satisfaction in life is not dependent on me or their father, or any other person or thing.  

This is certainly going to be a work in progress but I've made a list of things I will do:
  • I will choose to be at peace with myself.  
  • I will remain calm when situations are less than ideal.
  • I will let go of the things I cannot change.
  • I will make a clear distinction between what is important and what is not.
  • I will stop beating myself up over past mistakes.
  • I will stay positive and focused on my life's purpose.
  • I will recognize patterns of behavior that diminish my inner authority and take control of things I can change.
  • I will let go of fear.
These are the examples I want to set. I want to show my children that I have the power to determine what kind of life I live, and they do, too.  I want them to take control of their lives, to be optimistic, and open to opportunities that may come their way. I want them to choose to be happy.  After all, it is a choice.

Come on, get happy!


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