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Children, Part 2

I babysat for my niece over the Thanksgiving break, which was tiring but a lot of fun. I never had a sister growing up but really wanted one, so it’s fitting that Sadie likes to pretend that we’re sisters. I told her about Sophie and she wasn’t phased at all. I guess kids don’t think it’s crazy when you tell them that you have an inner child because so much of their play revolves around their imagination.

Sadie has recently discovered that she’s a really good singer, so we started off the day belting out country songs and show tunes on Youtube during breakfast. The song “Tomorrow” has been running through my head for over a week now. I promised Sadie I would wake up early so the singing started around 7:30 a.m. while I drank my coffee and tried to wake up.

Then, because snow is a rare occurrence in Knoxville, we went sledding in the back yard. I was never big on sledding even as a kid so I was not expecting this to be much fun but it turned out to be a blast. I usually try to get exercise by playing tennis or obsessively counting steps, but it’s much more fun if you do it by playing, like kids do. So I counted that as my workout for the day.

After that I took Sadie shopping to buy her very first Christmas gifts with her own money.  It was sweet and hilarious to see how excited she was about it. Not only was this a good lesson in altruism, but it also taught her the value of money. By the last gift she realized that she didn’t have enough to buy a My Pretty Pony or whatever those things are called, so she asked me to buy it for her since she’d been so generous. How could I say no to that?

We treated ourselves to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and shared the pumpkin cheesecake. Which was awesome! When we got home I helped Sadie wrap her gifts and drank more coffee. I was still really tired by then so we watched Brady Bunch episodes until her parents came home. At which point she made them open their Christmas gifts and told them that she bought them with her own money but now she didn’t have any left. They reassured her that she would probably get more money for Christmas.

I took a nap shortly after their arrival.

One of the less intuitive findings on happiness is that having children does not make people happier on a day-to-day basis, but parents believe that children make them happier to justify all of the hard work in raising them. Sort of like the principle behind hazing as a way to bond with your fraternity.

I’m not sure I buy that explanation. Having children isn’t about happiness. It’s about love. And love doesn’t always make you happy. In fact, sometimes it makes you miserable. But when you choose to love someone, you do it because you want to experience the full range of what it means to be human–even the negative stuff. And children definitely allow you to experience that full range.

I wrote this blog post because Sadie asked me to write another one about her last week but I never got around to it. Here is a picture of her modeling her sledding attire.

And here is Sophie’s drawing of Sadie and me.


About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

6 responses »

  1. Actually, having children does make me happy on a day-to-day basis. Whereas you only see Sadie during family gatherings and special visits, I feel lucky that I get to see her every day!


  2. Yeah I really don't agree with that finding.


  3. I just found a more recent study in happiness and children. Here's the abstract:

    In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery.

    Recent scholarly and media accounts paint a portrait of unhappy parents who find remarkably little joy in taking care of their children, but the scientific basis for these claims remains inconclusive. In the three studies reported here, we used a strategy of converging evidence to test whether parents evaluate their lives more positively than do nonparents (Study 1), feel relatively better than do nonparents on a day-to-day basis (Study 2), and derive more positive feelings from caring for their children than from other daily activities (Study 3). The results indicate that, contrary to previous reports, parents (and especially fathers) report relatively higher levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life than do nonparents.


  4. Until they become teenagers……then that joy and happiness crap is thrown right out the door! TRUST ME! I'm hoping they become human again in their 20s. I could be in an asylum by then……….Becky Bevins


  5. Yeah those teenage years seem like they can be pretty torturous!


  6. Pingback: Freedom | Normal in Training

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