Why it's not my job to make my children happy.
At any given moment I can have a child sulking because they don’t have a particular game they want, and another in a grump because it’s too wet to go on the scooters - and that is OK. I can have a child in a bad mood because they are over tired and another grouchy because it’s just been a long day - that is also OK!
We can have an amazing day out and on our return have one in a temper because of how loudly their sibling is breathing, whilst the other one is cross that they don’t have sufficient leg room in the car. My children at this point are not happy, and that is ok! How many times have we, as parents, spent money on our children we cannot afford, or permitted boundaries to be broken because we feel responsible for our children’s happiness?
Well, I am officially alleviating myself of that pressure right now - from here on in, it is not my job to keep my children in a perpetual state of happiness!
Happiness, like all emotions, will come and go like waves. My job, is to teach my children to surf these waves and not be overcome by them. I do not get to orchestrate what waves come next, how long for and in what order. I cannot follow them around making sure their happy tanks are overflowing - and neither should I! Happiness is an emotion often idolised by humans, with huge time and money devoted to the pursuit of finding a happiness that lasts. Yet with all this chasing after an elusive sense of “happy”, we can separate ourselves from the ever constant source of Joy.
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The Joy of the Lord is not determined by or given from the world. It is not created, removed or re- shaped by external factors. It is not an emotion or switch that can be flicked on and off. Joy is the understanding that Gods love for you is all encompassing and unconditional, it is knowing that nothing you do will make him love you more or less, it is being both fully known and fully loved. If I want to hep my children grow strong in joy, I need them to know that they are wholly loved, accepted for who they are, and that no matter what they do wrong, there is always a way back. I need to show them God’s grace when they mess up. I need to take time to discover how I can best demonstrate my love and be curious about who they are and what makes them tick. And when they are happy, that’s great! And if they’re not, joy will be their strength.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not for a minute suggesting that we walk around avoiding happiness! In fact, when God parents us with joy, he actively encourages us to couple it with celebration. For instance in Esther:
“There was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.” Esther 8:17
or King David’s proclamation in Psalms:
“At his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord” Psalm 27:6
Heaven itself is prone to a good party:
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7
Our joy in the Lord is a transaction of the heart, but the bi product of this transaction is an environment of celebration, praise, singing, eating and getting together. This is the part where, as parents, we can become culture creators of joy. We can set a table for our families to enjoy feasting at, we can celebrate each other, even when there is seemingly little new to celebrate. We can sing, dance, play sports, bring out a board game, tell stories, try new things together to cultivate a sense that in this family “we do joy!” Whilst we cannot be our families source of happiness and ensure they have every want or desire, we can create homes that celebrate life, that notice blessings, that give credence to fun and permission for our time together to feel like an occasion. Proverbs 17:22 tells us,
“A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
The word of God reveals not only the strength that comes from Joy, it even signposts us to the health benefits too. Sometimes having a giggle is all we need to change our thinking and re-energise our hearts, and it is the same for our children. So whilst I’m shaking off the chains of being my family’s source of “Happy,” I do plan to become a greater nurturer of joy. From today I plan to be silly, be fun, go on adventures and let life-giving laughter be rich in my family’s DNA!