My soapbox needs an upgrade. Previously I made do with an upturned milk crate. I could – metaphorically – stand atop and crusade. My crusade is usually stirred of a parenting niggle but my audience is sometimes just me. This time around I want to stand a little taller and shout out a little louder. A new soapbox on a grander scale might help or maybe trade up to five milk crates high with booming speakers. I want to share and it not just be me listening in.

The Importance of Happiness?

I am bothered by an observation about my children – “as long as they are happy” – as if to say that the bickering they witness between mum and dad can be blotted away by ‘happy’. The happiness platitude has me feeling squeamish. For me, there is an implication that if I pile on the ‘happy’, then the parental discord can be overlooked. I am bothered by the implication that happiness ought to be my single parenting priority. There seems to be a notion that happiness should trump other good stuff that I want my daughters to experience.

Happiness is right up there in my top ten parenting goals for my children. Happy is a wonderful place that I visit regularly. I am not ripping into happiness, but want to call out the idea that happiness often seems to be the all-important god. To hear “as long as they are happy” suggests that happiness is the one and only thing that should make up my parenting finish line. Instead, I want for my children’s happiness to sit alongside such things as courage, confidence, faith, kindness, compassion and dedication.

My happiness tirade – which until now has just been clanging in my noggin – came to a head from an innocent conversation with my daughters’ headmaster. I was simply checking in on a few process issues (“Yes, I am their dad and like to be kept up to date with what is happening at school.”) As I am prone to do, my conversation meandered and we shared some heart-wrenching chatter about the fraught separated parenting place that my daughters tentatively navigate. In the midst of welling tears and blinking eyes the headmaster offered, “As long as the girls are happy.” She smiled as if to emphasise the imperative of being happy. I nodded without being convinced.

‘Happy’ and the Yes-ness Syndrome

I can achieve happiness in an instant for my children. Chocolate makes them happy. So does getting to order their school lunch. “Yes” to a movie makes them happy. But, life is so much richer when happiness is balanced with all the other emotions.

Thoughts about the literal message dawdled into my thinking. The happiness statement said to me that being happy would dissolve all the angst created of a separated mum and dad who struggle to agree on many parenting decisions. My thoughts broke into a jog. Happy is easy. Happy is fleeting. That is, it can quickly shrivel unless it is fed by a regular supply of the next big tasty treat or shiny toy. To be sated, the happy appetite requires bigger and better thrills.

Happy is easy if I were to trade off responsibility for yes-ness. Yes-ness is an affliction that damages a parent’s instinct for growing a child to mature adulthood. The parent consistently says “yes” to buy their child’s happiness, whereas a “no” would be the right answer.

My first experience of yes-ness was listening to a mum at a birthday party discretely describe her seven-year-old daughter’s new boots as “slut boots.” Quite obviously, she identified that the boots were hardly appropriate. “But, what was I to do?” she seemed to be asking of other parents because her daughter apparently made a fuss about the footwear. Saying “yes” was going to be just the treat for the daughter to be happy.

My narkiness over the yes-ness plague really kicked in this week. I wandered past an electronic games outlet selling an R-rated title that warned of “References to sexual violence and sex scenes.” The trench coat-wearing bloke toting a handgun on the cover of the game didn’t stir any surprise. Guns seem to be commonplace in computer games. I know that school-age kids are being bought these trashy games because school ground conversations have come home to me about boys playing Grand Theft Auto. GTA is a game loaded with brutality and sexual violence. It seems to me that the yes-ness syndrome has these titles booked up to the credit card way ahead of the parental courage to say “NO!”

Parent Courageously

I will not be convinced that a formative young mind can be playing these ‘games’ and form healthy attitudes toward women.

I want my soapbox to be redone on a grand scale. I want to call out loudly that my daughters and all girls should grow up to meet partners who have not been getting their happy thrills from such nasty games. I want our children’s worth to be seen in who they are, not what they wear.

Please, parent courageously. Parent with sound values, rather than by your child’s happy moments being the exclusive decision maker. Our children need to be guided by limitless parental courage.


Photo by Pixabay

Published On: May 30th, 20230 CommentsTags: , , ,

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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