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A Little Gift

Recently, I was given a little gift … not the material-type that you might be imagining (like the four-slice toaster I hope to get for my birthday … kidding, but not kidding :), but a gift nonetheless …

It is NOT my job to make my children happy. 

10 little words spoken over the phone … “it is not your job to make your children happy” … and a heavy burden was lifted … 

As I let that sink in a minute, I was told, “Your daughter has to figure out how to fill HERSELF up” … this coming after I shared with her that “she’s never happy” … “she’s never full” … “it doesn’t matter what I do, she just wants more or the next thing” … and as I said all of those things aloud (to an almost stranger) … she asked me if I heard what I was saying … “I will NEVER fill her up.” 

But instead of feeling defeated or discouraged or having to just try harder or something different … I felt relieved. 

“She needs to learn how to fill HERSELF up. We can’t do that for them,” she continued.

We can show them the way … we can show them what WE would do … we can model good practices … good behaviours … but it is NOT our job to fill our kids up … it is NOT our job to make them happy. 

Their emotions are THEIR emotions … 

As a mother, I think I have taken on the responsibility of “handling” my child’s emotions … and they are BOUNTIFUL … and they can be fierce … 

I’ve done EVERYTHING I can possibly think of over the years to help her self-regulate … I’ve taught her many tips and tricks … I’ve given her countless tools and strategies … I’ve tried everything to “fix” this … from preventing certain experiences … or avoiding specific situations … from picking only things SHE would like or be in favour of … to (maybe) letting the boundaries slide a little too far … or granting a few too many freedoms … anything really just to “keep the peace” … anything to prevent a “blowout” or another over-the-top emotional episode … 

It seems I’ve been ”doing the dance” for years now trying to please this child … and, I can see now, it’s not helping her … it’s actually probably hurting her … she needs to learn the same thing I just learned: NO ONE can make SOMEONE ELSE happy. She needs to learn that I am not responsible for her happiness. SHE is responsible for her HAPPINESS (or her upset or her anger).

Of course, this doesn’t mean I am going to abandon her. 

She needs supports … and help … and tools … and strategies … a boatload of compassion … and her basic needs met … 

The truth is though … as humans, we are responsible for OUR OWN wellbeing … no one “OUT THERE” is going to fix things for us (not our parents, not a counsellor, not our friends or our spouses) … nothing “OUT THERE” is going to fill us up in the way that we hope either (whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or shopping) … IT HAS TO COME FROM WITHIN … 

And it’s hard … and it’s painful … and it can be a TON of work … but NO ONE can do THE WORK for us … 

We have to do the work ourselves. 

This goes for my daughters … but this goes for all of you as well.

My daughters need to learn how to fill THEMSELVES up … 

They need to learn how to be HAPPY doing the things they HAVE to do … in a healthy way.

Today, during a moment of emotional unrest for my daughter after a consequence was put in place that she didn’t like, I took care of ME … I did not get emotionally invested into the situation (this CAN be hard at times) … in fact, I told her … “the feelings and the emotions that you’re experiencing right now are YOURS … I know those are tough feelings (me offering empathy and compassion) … but I cannot fix your feelings …what do YOU need to do to get feeling better?”

The truth of the matter is … kids NEED opportunities to solve problems … to figure things out a little on their own … to determine how to fill THEMSELVES up in healthy ways … to take care of their OWN emotions surrounding a circumstance … 

This isn’t to say we don’t love and support them along the way … but the burden of our children’s emotional baggage IS NOT ours to carry … 

It is not OUR job to make our children happy … 

What a gift those 10 little words have been to me. 

I hope they are a gift to you too, especially the next time that ever-present “mom guilt” creeps in.

Own the phrase, “It is not my job to make my children happy!” It REALLY is freeing … especially when your middle kid complains about having to ride the bus and your preschooler HATES being the last kid picked up from pre-k … 

Offer empathy … offer understanding … then encourage them to figure out a way to be happy on the bus or being the last kid at pre-k … 

You’ll all be better off for it!

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