The oldest daughter, Ember, was upset with my wife, Amy, and because of that said, “I am not happy.”
In turn, Amy told her that her job as a parent is to take care of her, discipline her, and to love her.
“Do you feel loved?,” Amy asked. “Yes,” was Ember’s reply.
“Then I’m doing my job,” Amy said.
We don’t see our role as parents as the purveyors of happiness. Sure, we want our children to have happy lives, be healthy, seek out good relationships, and have an good overall sense of well-being. But it is not our responsibility to make our children happy.
It is our duty to teach our children how to be happy.
My minimalism journey is, in part, because I want to be an example to my children so they might not end up with the same stuff disorder as their parents. It is my goal to teach my children that you can be happy without having an excess of things. This will be a tough sell, of course. Our society does a fantastic job of encouraging desire for the next new thing.
How many times have you purchased something and it made you feel really great? You get high from the shopping experience, take your stuff home, and revel in your purchase. New pair of shoes? Fantastic! New phone? Shiny! New car? Love that new car smell!
The truth is, that feeling does not last. In turn, we consume more and more in our endless pursuit to feel good. Eventually, we end up with a house full of stuff and still left feeling unfulfilled.
Sadly, it doesn’t stop with tangible items.
We see parents running themselves into the ground for the sacrificial cause of their children. Swim lessons, gymnastic lessons, soccer, baseball, basketball, dancing … it never seems to end. We know parents who go from one event to the other, often back-to-back in the same night and sometimes multiple evenings a week, so their children can have something to do. Meanwhile, mom and pop are time starved and stressed, but hey, they’re “doing it for the kids.”
Should we be teaching our children that a boatload of activities and a house full of things is the path to happiness? Or, should we instead teach that there are some things they can do and some things they can have that will add value to their life without bringing on stress from excess?
We pick one or two activities to sign the kids up per year, and that’s it. We find this manageable and sustainable. As for the toys and the knick-knacks and the endless stream of artwork my kids create that they can’t let go of … we’re working on it.