My friend Stacy sent me a copy of a blog about parenting that she recently read, loved and saved.
The blog, written by Erin Stewart for the Deseret News was about how the new Disney Pixar movie, “Inside Out” sent her a wake-up call.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, “Inside Out,” it’s about a girl named Riley whose emotions are in a tailspin because her family is moving.
Joy, sadness, disgust, anger, and fear battle it out trying to cope with the transition.
Joy wants to take over, but with all her positivity and happy talk, she just can’t push Sadness out of the way.
The point of the movie is to show that all emotions are necessary and that even sadness plays an important role in our human experience.
To this blogger, who is the mother of two small children, it was a wake-up call to learn that “Sadness is necessary – maybe even more important than joy sometimes.”
As she watched the movie, she felt guilty because, like all parents, she tries to shove sadness from her children’s lives by responding to it with all kinds of cheerful talk about the bright side, the upside, and the sunny side of life.
Her conclusion is that “It’s not our job to make our children happy.”
“I was missing the point,” Stewart wrote. “It’s OK to be sad. It’s healthy to be sad.”
“Just like the emotion Joy in the movie who works to hard to silence Sadness, I have been taking it on as my responsibility to keep smiles on my children’s faces. That is not my job. Joy can’t be forced, just like sadness can’t be ignored. My job is to help them understand their emotions, embrace them and then learn to live with the ups and downs of life,” she wrote.
This reminded me that several years ago, I had a church assignment to work with the teenage girls in our congregation.
An exasperated dad talked to me about the changing moods of his daughter.
“I just want her to be happy. Is that asking too much?”
I’ve asked myself that same question many times, “Is it asking too much to just want them to be happy?”
It’s natural to want our kids to be happy – supremely, consistently, blissfully happy.
But as it turns out, it is asking too much.
As a parent, it’s a lot of hard, painful work to accept that.
I think the core truth here is that we want our kids to be happy for their sakes; but we also want to protect ourselves from their sadness because we can’t handle it.
I’d like to see the “Inside Out” movie from a mom’s perspective – the animated version of what happens to a mom’s emotions when her daughter is sad, disappointed, discouraged or hurt.
Parenting hurts. It’s exhilarating and gives life purpose, meaning and all of those beautiful and deep things, but it also can just plain hurt sometimes.
When your daughter’s heart gets broken, so does your heart. When she is disappointed, you are disappointed.
Stacy printed the wake-up call blog and stored it in a drawer to take out and read occasionally to remind her that she can’t and shouldn’t try to shove sadness out of her kids’ lives.
I’m going to do the same thing – not just for the emotional development of my adult children, but also for my own.
I need to learn that it’s not my job to ensure their continual happiness; and it’s also not my job to take on their emotions and feel them for them. That doesn’t ease their pain and only adds to mine.
The big question here is how do I do that?
I’d love your wisdom on that one.