Monday, October 11, 2010

You're Only as Happy as Your Saddest Child

I have always thought that is such a depressing quote, but ever since I gave birth to my first child, I can say that it holds true.  I was trying to think the other day if before I had children, I was able to feel the pain of another human being the way I feel the pain of my children.  I can’t remember ever having the feeling.
It is actually a true testament to parental love that you could care so much for your child that you actually ache when they feel emotional or physical pain.  The problem is it doesn’t help them.  As Wendy Mogel wrote in her book, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee”, what benefits them is just knowing you are there and finding a way to help them grow into self-reliant adults.  
The dilemma in many situations is helping them look at multiple sides of a problem and, at the same time, making sure the decision they make is theirs.  Even though it feels like you help them if you make the decision for them, it doesn’t help anyone.  They need to learn how to make the decision on their own and live with the consequences of what they decide.  It’s crucial that when they look back, they know it was their decision, not yours.
But, playing the role of supporter from afar of whatever decision they make is not easy when you are feeling their pain.  It is especially hard not to inject your opinions so strongly that they can’t hear their own hearts.  
I remember wanting to quit law school and hearing the advice of each of my parents.  In the end, I made my own choice and it was the right choice because it was mine, not because it was “right”.
So, when I think of my happiness based on my saddest child, I also try to remember that it’s not all about happiness and sadness and right and wrong, but learning lessons that are life long and helping our children grow into adults who trust themselves and the decisions they make.