(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

You know that expression, “A mother is only as happy as her least happy child”? Well, true as that feeling may be, that’s not the healthiest way to approach parenting. And as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, we can’t make someone else feel exactly what we want him or her to feel, whether such a feeling is happy or anything else.

In the end you can only be in charge of your own happiness—and even that isn’t necessarily easy.

Some days (years?) you have to find your own happiness, one moment at a time. You have to string together the happy moments—small as they may be—to cover up a lot of the bigger holes in your heart, life, etc.

You can provide examples, opportunities, mental health providers, medications, puppies, outings, new things, chocolate, or whatever but you cannot make someone else feel happy or even decide to try to be happy.

If your children are reasonably happy—hey, no one said every minute of life is a riot of joy—then you can feel you’ve done a good job. But if they’re not, is it because you’ve done a bad job? Or is happiness much more complicated than that?

At what point do you realize that you’re going to have to hand over that happiness job to them and let them choose whether to pursue it or not?

And, then, how do you go about the very tough business of grabbing your own happiness when you in fact do have an unhappy child?

It is incredibly heartbreaking to watch your children struggle. Though it’s in our parental DNA to do everything we can to help them move through those struggles, they are in fact their struggles.

As it is, if you aren’t careful, you can let their approaches to life and unhappiness permeate your own approaches.

Earlier, when discussing a problem encountered by one of my children, a professional had asked me if I had read the book Learned Optimism. Yes, while breastfeeding them, in fact! But I couldn’t/can’t make them drink it into their own belief systems.

Meanwhile, the more negativity I encounter, the less capable I find myself of choosing optimism. But it really is a choice, no matter what my circumstances. So for now I will continue to take little sips of my own optimism and happiness, even if I can’t quite gulp them down just yet.