Sunday, July 09, 2006

All I want for my children is for them to be...

How do you finish that sentence?

At least in movies the answer seems always to be "happy."

In a blog the other day someone wrote that all she wanted was for her children to be happy and successful. She clearly did not mean successful in (necessarily) traditional pursuits. She wants her children to follow successfully follow their own dreams, whatever they may be.

My kids know that I would never say that.

I want a lot of things for them. I want them to bring me grandchildren. Not right away mind you, but I want it. If I get to be old and none of them as bothered to parent, I will be disappointed. I hope that I can accept that with grace. I hope that they don't feel pressured by me, but I do want grandbabies.

I want them to be in long-term relationships with other people that I can get to know. Assuming that I continue to collect boys the way some women collect cats, I really do hope that one of them marries a woman. Oh, I'll get over it, especially if one of them produces a granddaughter, but I confess that I would love to sit down as Thanksgiving and look at my brood and see at least one girl there.

But these are things I want for me. I thoroughly understand that I do not always get what I want and that my children are under no obligation to satisfy my wants. They are not here to be what I want them to be.

And I think that is what a lot of people mean when they say "All I want is for my children to be happy." They are acknowledging that their children's lives are their own; that they have their own dreams and are not responsible for fulfilling their parents.

But still I don't say it.

There's something about that phrase that suggests awfulness to me, "as long as you are happy, I am happy for you."

I know it is not true, at least for me. If they were happy and leading lives in which they exploited others, I would not be happy for them. If they were happy, and content to pursue pleasure and care not at all for the suffering of others, I would not be happy for them. I don't expect them to dedicate their lives to charity work, far from it. I do want them to be the sort of person who cares.

I would like for them to be happy; I really would. But if I have to end that sentence simply, with just a few words, I would say:

All I want for my children is for them to be decent and caring human beings who will try to do what they believe is right, even if doing so requires a sacrifice in their pursuit of happiness.

Oh wait, I said a few words:

All I want for them is that they be strong of character.

1 comment:

  1. rossecorp5:48 PM

    YES. I want my children to be strong of character. What I usually say/think is that I want my children to be "happy, healthy, and whole." If they are happy and also healthy (emotionally and physically), and whole, then they can't be exploiting others, or not being who they truly are, or making bad choices, or doing any of the stuff I don't want them to do.

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