Unhappy Kids

I had something of an epiphany today. I took my two children to a Children's Museum today. You know those places where there's rooms FILLED with creative, imaginative play options? They could work in an animal hospital, pretend to be a dentist, grocery shop in a Shoprite, bring mail to the pretend post office...and so on a so forth. Besides Disney World, that should pretty much be the happiest place in the world for a kid, right?


There were kids screaming, kids crying, moms wrestling their kicking, reaching toddlers out the door to the food court so they could <GASP> buy them a yummy treat. My own child, when I told her that we were moving to another part of the museum, announced with a loud sigh that it would probably 'be boring.' And there were definitely tears and arguments between my two children in the two hours we were there.

Of course, kids were having fun as well. But it certainly wasn't ALL fun and games like we might expect, I can tell you that.

And in the middle of all of that, I had a little bit of a revelation. And here it is, I will share it with you: CHILDREN ARE NOT NATURALLY HAPPY ALL THE TIME. 

You'd think that being a mom would naturally allow me to already know this piece of information. But it HASN'T! 

I always think that my kids should be naturally happy. Whether it's in fun places, throughout a regular day, or playing with other kids, I typically think my children should be happy.

But they're typically NOT. They might be somewhat happy. They might get excited about a special outing. But somewhere in that special outing, they'll undoubtedly get unhappy. They'll have a breakdown. There will be discipline issues. They'll get angry at another kid. They'll get into a verbal spat with their sibling. They just aren't happy all the time.

Pretty obvious, right? But to me, this was an epiphany. And I'd wager a guess that alot of  moms need this kind of epiphany to break into their perspective on parenting as well. 

So first of all, let's just realize that IT'S OK for our kids to be unhappy when it seems like they should be happy. They don't naturally react correctly. There's no shame in being at a fun place like a playdate or a park and having to teach a child the correct way to act. Thankfulness, genuine happiness, and peaceful joy is not something that comes naturally for children, so we shouldn't feel so stinkin' embarassed as moms when our kids act like...children.  

And secondly, so often, I focus on what we're doing, on the 'event' or the 'task' that's happening. Like today, for example. I was focusing on the event of going to a fun place so that my two children could have a special time. BUT what I actually NEEDED to focus on MORE is teaching my children how to 'do life' in that particular arena. it's not so much about where we are and what we're doing, but more about ME TRAINING THEM. My job as a mom is less about the event, less about the task, and MORE about the 'shepherding.' MORE about the 'teaching how to walk through this situation.' MORE about the 'teaching them coping skills when someone steals a toy' and LESS about the event of a fun playdate. 

Can I get a weary 'Amen' from any moms out there? It's back-breaking work to daily and even momentarily train our children, but it's so much more important than anything else that is going on...but I tend to forget that that's my job almost every day.

It's like I expect the structure of an event or a task to be enough to corral my children into intrinsically knowing how to act. But they just don't. They need to be taught. All the time. In so many moments. So I need to stop focusing on all the activity and start focusing on teaching them about life and emotions and how to interact wherever we go. They need my instruction. They need to know how to approach life. And I'm the one who needs to teach them.

So the next time I visit the Children's Museum, and my child starts to have a meltdown when I offer a lunch break...I'm going to take a deep breath and remember that this is potentially the most important moment of my trip to a fun place.