Happiness isn’t a destination

Our children are growing up victims because we’re failing to show them another way. That life is what they choose, not simply what happens to them. That resilience is not genetically bestowed but a habit and practice that can be improved.

Hope, gratitude, love, optimism, a positive identity, good relationships, empowerment, sound health and determination are not concepts that airily float round like butterflies choosing who’ll they’ll land on. They’re within us if only we’re taught how to seize them and use them.

Those are the resonate words a former colleague, Angela Mollard, wrote at Rendezvous earlier this week in an article entitled “Watching Dunkirk, I realised we need to help our kids harden up”.

She notes: “In the 77 years since Dunkirk, it’s as if the “V” for victory has been replaced with a “V” for victimhood.”

I found myself alternately nodding and squirming slightly as I read the article. It was pretty harsh in parts and I’ve been guilty of some of the failings she mentions.

I’ve teetered very close to the edge of feeling too sorry for myself as I suffered the slings and arrows of single parenthood.

But, truth is, I have it pretty bloody good and so do my kids. We have a fridge full of food, we have a roof over our heads, they go to art classes and skipping classes and trumpet classes and saxophone classes.

The eldest just went snowboarding on a school ski trip.

The youngest will head to Brisbane in a few months for the National Skipping Championships.

I bought tickets to see Kitty Flanagan in the Blue Mountains … but got the time wrong and missed it.

It’s a privileged life. Not as privileged as some, but far more privileged than many.

I hope my kids understand how fortunate they are. I hope they grow into resilient, kind, self-sufficient adults who don’t spend their lives thinking the world owes them something and resenting it for not delivering.

A few days ago, Huffington Post Australia pondered similar issues: “If you asked a parent in the ’50s, the ’60s or mine in the ’70s, ‘what’s the most important job of a parent?’ Their answer would have been, ‘to provide for them and to raise a good person’. Valid answer, still today, we all want to raise a good person with high morals, solid values and a healthy work ethic.

“But, are we parenting in a way that will make this happen?”

The author, Luke Mathers, discussed the way previous generations made kids work for everything they received.

“The pride generated from earning money to buy a new bike is a lot greater than the satisfaction from being given a new bike,” he noted.

“Today, kids often (not always) get a new iPhone because there is a new iPhone. No work was required to earn it and no pride was generated from working and saving to achieve their goal.”

The article was called “Are your kids a bit stressed? Good!”

I found that a bit confronting too, because I see so many kids tormented and weighed down by anxiety.

Mathers says: “There has been a lot of talk recently about millennials being entitled. I think they need some stress! They need to work for an a***hole boss who treats them like s**t. They need to work out their own way to get to football practice (push bike). They need to have the stress of possibly failing a subject to ensure they do the work to pass.”

I’m not sure I’ve done enough of that with my kids. They get pretty much whatever they want whenever they want it. And they barely lift a finger in the process.

So far they seem fairly grateful and balanced. But I would hate to have set them up for an adult life that fails to live up to expectations because they don’t understand that there will always be stresses and obstacles to overcome along the way, that they can’t expect someone else to swoop in and solve everything, and that happiness – as Mather notes -“has got to be a byproduct of doing good things, not a destination.”

How did parenting get so complicated? When did we start overthinking it so much and helicoptering so obsessively? Are we setting our kids up for a fall?

Song of the day: The Cruel Sea “Honeymoon is over”





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