“I am happy, you can’t be happy.”

September 11, 2013
Notable Stats
Happiness Batting Average (HBA) – The number of children who are happy divided by the number of children you have in your family. .300 is the mark of excellence.
Happy Streak (HS) – The number of consecutive days one or more of your children are considered happy

We all talk about happiness. The euphoric state that is supposed to sweep us up and make everything all right. We smile, we laugh, we take risks, all when we feel the excitement of the happy place. Then it can all change in the blink of an eye. 

Nothing brings this to light as well as parenting a gaggle of kids. Their happiness rises and sets with the sun, which is not based on Earth rotations, but according to planet toddler. This planet is a constantly rotating and revolving planet that has a sunset every 11 minutes. 
Happiness is a snack. Happiness is the answer “yes” when you can watch one more episode of Doc McStuffins. Happiness is playing tag. Happiness is eating a popsicle. Happiness is piling into bed with your parents to watch Saturday cartoons as the bacon cooks on the stove. Happiness is hugging your baby sister.
But there is the problem. One which we don’t want to admit as parents.
Happiness is running your sister off the road so you can finish first on your scooter. Happiness is when you get a parent to pay attention to you after tattling on your brother that he just took a bite out of a chair. Happiness is pouring shampoo into the toothpaste then into a jar of Vicks and then using it to brush the dog’s teeth. Happiness is being given the freedom to jump off a bookshelf, and then after, realizing that you never were given that freedom, you just took it when no one was looking. 
It would appear that happiness starts off in toddler land as a zero sum game. That there is a finite amount of happy in the room. And we can’t all be happy at the same time or at least in the same amounts. That is not to say they consciously want misery to befall their sibling or that this is the result of some global parenting failure, but they are more in tune with their own personal happiness and if it doesn’t meet their happy standard, someone may have to go down a notch or two.
So as a parent, to keep sanity around in your life, I recommend that you have a baseball standard of success when it comes to your ability to secure your child’s happiness. A great hitter in baseball gets a hit 3 out of 10 times. That type of success over 20 years practically locks you in to be in the Hall of Fame, the shrine and gold standard of baseball excellence. So in a household of three kids. If one is happy on a given day and you pull this off for 40 years, you are not only a Hall of Famer, you are a parental deity and worthy of writing books upon books on how to parent children.
If you are unwise and elect to measure your parental happiness success to a test score or a high school grading system, you will not get many As. Come to think of it, you will not get many Ds. A D-plus would be a stellar day. An F minus would be pretty solid, if you include the dog or cat’s happiness. Give me a 50% test score over 40 years and I will buy my own Father of the Year trophy. 
I don’t mean to make any parent feel bad or declare some sort of inevitable environmental happiness toxin in your home. Nor am I accepting of some baseline of perpetual misery. I guess at this stage of my children’s lives, we just try and keep them moving. Healthy, busy, challenged, loved, and warm. Sure I want them to also be happy. I want to believe that they are more likely to find personal happiness space more consistently later in life if as parents, my wife and I can meet the aforementioned list of requirements. Right now, those concepts may be too far in the future for beings that are in the here and now.
Then again, sustainable and close to perpetual happiness is a lofty goal for anyone. I suppose the Yin and Yang of kids are just showing us more of their humanity even if part of being human is grinning when you shouldn’t be grinning. Still, can we teach them not to smile when their sister is crying?
- Doug Glanville
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