We all want our children to grow up happy. But are we going too far out of our way to make sure our children have a happy childhood? Are we in fact trying too hard?
Instead of allowing a natural childhood to develop, we are designing happy childhoods. Meticulously planning and analysing each and every moment of our kids’ days to ensure they are happy, resilient and well adjusted. Even when we are told to simply let our kids just be kids, it still feels forced. As if there is some step-by-step process to follow.
Sure raising happy kids is a good thing, but is our pre-occupation with doing healthy?
When I look back on my childhood I do so with fond memories. Even though many memories aren’t so great, in general, my childhood was a happy one.
This was despite the fact that I was an only child. Despite the fact that we moved around a lot. Despite the fact that my parents didn’t do art and craft or planned activities with me apart from the odd game of monopoly or boggle. Despite the fact that my house wasn’t filled with toys, gadgets or technology. Despite the fact that we didn’t go anywhere much – holidays, day trips, outings. Despite the fact, I didn’t do a lot of extra-curricular activities. And despite the fact that I wasn’t the centre of my parents’ attention.
Now you may think I’m painting a gloomy picture, but it wasn’t. It was just a normal, middle-class childhood. My parents did the best they could. They worked hard to make sure I was safe, clothed, housed, fed and they loved me. It was the seventies and eighties and they were the basics.
I wasn’t worrying about how much time my parents spent with me, and I didn’t feel unloved or unwanted. I was just a kid, being a kid. I played, used my imagination, created, and even did nothing. All without the involvement of my parents, other than them being there somewhere in the background. And I still look back on my childhood with such joy and contentment.
Nowadays, with the information overload at the tips of our fingers, it seems there is so much pressure on parents to raise happy kids. To be the type of parent, who is defined by labels and catch-phrases such as: ‘Connected.’ ‘Plugged-in.’ ‘Engaged.’ ‘Involved.’ ‘Present.’ The type of parent whose mission is to create purposeful and happy memories that kids will look back on with joy and sentiment. As that equates to parenting success.
I know, because I feel that pressure. The guilt that every moment I am around my kids I should be engaged in their world. Playing games, listening, watching, crafting, outdoor-activitying. That I should be going in with a plan to actively grow their self-esteem, confidence and resilience, which will lead to them having a happy childhood and become happy adults. And don’t get me wrong. All that stuff is important. But I don’t plan it. I let it happen naturally. Am I a bad parent if I don’t have a plan? If I don’t spend every moment with the intention of nurturing my kids. What if I just want them to be a kid?
I must sound like the worst mum in the world, and maybe it’s my own childhood that has resulted in the type of parent that I am. Who knows?
But for me, it comes back to those basics. As long as my kids are safe, healthy and most importantly feel loved and wanted, then I can’t see how they won’t look back on their childhood as a happy time. As a normal childhood – filled with emotions from all realms of the spectrum: happiness, sadness, joy, frustration, angst and elation.
So maybe we should just stop trying too hard and start letting families be families, and kids be kids without the pressure and intention of being happy. Let it just happen. Sound easy? Maybe it just is.
Is your parenting influenced by the pressures to raise happy children?
Are you fearful that if you don’t follow the latest advice that your child won’t be happy?
What was your childhood like, and has it affected the way you parent today?
(So many questions!)
*I also want to add that I understand that many childhoods aren’t happy due to different circumstances and I am by no means undervaluing these families and their situations.