By Jodi Baretz
When Grace asked me to write an essay on “Happy Homes,” I chuckled a bit to myself! I’m not sure what goes on in your house, but in mine, it is certainly not always happy. I would describe my home as a loving, accepting, nurturing environment, but a bit chaotic and tense at times. Overall, we are a “happy” family but from the look on my teenager’s face, you may not think so.
I have a little problem with always striving for happiness. Happiness is a fleeting feeling, not a state that we should expect all the time. Families are messy. Life is messy. Kids are messy. Instead of happy home, let’s aim for a full adventure recognizing our full range of feelings; things may not always be perfect, but embrace the good, bad and ugly because they are there anyway. By being more aware that there will always be set backs, bad grades, tons of drama and spilled milk, we can certainly tolerate challenging times a bit more.
Having expectations of what activities we want our children to be involved in can create stress in a home. We may want our son to play baseball, but they want to take an art class. My son is a wrestler. I never would have picked it for him (and was shell shocked at the first meet), but it turned out to be one of his greatest experiences that had a huge (positive) impact on his life. Guess what? We don’t always know what is best for our kids. A common fear among my clients is that their child doesn’t have many friends or found an activity they enjoy. We can encourage, but not force this. We can expose them to activities, but ultimately, they have to be on board. They will find interests and friends in their own time. They are not always on our timeline. Accepting and making our child feel comfortable with who they are is the true key to a happy home and happy child.
“Instead of happy home, let’s aim for a full adventure recognizing our full range of feelings.”
On Facebook, it might look like everyone has a “happy home,” and we tend to feel “less than” if ours does not measure up. Most of you realize things are not always as they seem, but seeing those happy families on social media can have an impact. If you are struggling with issues in your house, chances are other families are too. They just don’t post it. Alternatively, we may want to be mindful about over posting. We all love and are proud of our children, and it’s great to share special moments, but if you are chronically posting familial bliss, it’s wise to stop and think about why so many of us have the need to do this, and how it affects others.
Instead of a permanently “happy home,” how do we create happy moments or create wonderful memories with our families? My biggest fear is one day my kids are going to look up from their phones and ask, “What happened to my childhood?” Kids don’t remember their best day of television. Creating memories has become increasingly difficult. We are rarely all disconnected from our devices at the same time and long enough to connect as a family. Thank goodness for dinner time, family vacations and carpools.
As my kids get older, these are the times I value and the only times I can get them to engage with me.
Creating memories does not have to be forced. One way to make them is by making the ordinary moments extraordinary. Meet every moment with your child as a new exciting adventure. Take a step back and appreciate them for who they are and how lucky you are to have them, without trying to change them. Gratitude goes a long way. The feeling is what you will remember. Life goes so fast and before you know it, the kids are gone. One memory from last month that stuck with me is my son getting out of the car, walking into a friends house and I sat back, watched, savored the moment and realized how very lucky I am. I hope
I always remember that!
Jodi Baretz, LCSW, CHHC is a psychotherapist and holistic health coach at The Center for Health and Healing in Mt. Kisco. She is a speaker on mindfulness topics and runs a Mindful is the New Skinny bootcamp to help women ease stress and get lighter inside and out. Jodi is a Chappaqua mom of two teenage boys. Visit jodibaretz.com.