Not that folks should be unhappy, but happiness is as one's primary goal in life is misdirected. I finally got around to reading my July/August issue of The Atlantic Monthly and found the article "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy" to speak to our situation. As a parent I fear often that I am too hard on my kids. And while this article is not a call to become parental tyrants, the idea that we as parents have to make our children happy all the time might be devastating to them in the long run.
There are plenty of things that we do in our lives that bring us happiness. But happiness is not the primary goal of such activity. Trying to provide for our child's happiness by constant praise, or navigating the troubled waters our children find themselves in, might even have more to do with the parents not wanting to let go than anything else. One notion that was raised as a possibility for parents not wanting to let go was the nature of community and most people's removal from it.
“There’s a difference between being loved and being constantly monitored,” Dan Kindlon told me. And yet, he admitted, even he struggles. “I’m about to become an empty-nester,” he said, “and sometimes I feel like I’d burn my kids’ college applications just to have somebody to hang around with. We have less community nowadays—we’re more isolated as adults, more people are divorced—and we genuinely like spending time with our kids. We hope they’ll think of us as their best friends, which is different from parents who wanted their kids to appreciate them, but didn’t need them to be their pals. But many of us text with our kids several times a day, and would miss it if it didn’t happen. So instead of being peeved that they ask for help with the minutiae of their days, we encourage it.”This article was a very sobering look at a number of issues that face not just the world but the church as well, particularly as wee seek to teach virtues that have nothing to do with common conceptions of happiness and instead have much to do with suffering and discipleship. Yet throughout the history of the church many have found happiness precisely in those endeavors. Happiness perhaps resides in the wrestling and the overcoming.