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Happy is Not Enough

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Guest blogger Rabbi Sherre Hirsch: Recently, I was asked in an interview what are my hopes and goals for my son Emet. Easy question. "I want my child to be happy." But I hesitated. Happy is not enough. I want so much more for my children than happiness alone.

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I want my child to respect all human beings and become respected in turn. I want him to be well-adjusted and able to handle disappointment and failure. I want him to be committed to his faith and his tradition. I want him to care for others, give of his time and his money. I want him to be kind. I want him to find meaning, feel joy, and seize moments. I want him to be passionate about someone, have a cause he believes in and have a life filled with purpose.

No pressure. My son is just turning six and not reading, so fortunately he does not see all these expectations spelled out. I have a few years of brainwashing still left.

The truth is that I have lots of expectations for my child. I have an idea of who I want him to marry, what he might do professionally, what he does not do recreationally. I have a lot of ideas about the kind of life I want him to live.

As a mother I am starting to struggle with how to balance not becoming an overbearing, controlling witch but at the same time communicating our values and expectations to our child.

I realize that there are choices he will begin to make that will disappoint me. And I want him to know I am disappointed. Not to live in fear of me (although that would not be horrible for now), but because I want him to know that there are repercussions to his choices. And I want him to know that immediate gratification is not always the goal.

If all I say to him is  "I want you to be happy," how will he learn that happiness alone is not enough? How will he learn that what makes him happy may make someone else hurt? How will he know that his actions affect more people than just him?

This is the tricky part of being a mom. I want my son to love me. So yesterday when I scolded him for hitting his sister and he told me hated me, it felt horrible. And in that moment I had to remind myself that he will love me more in the long run. I think I'm going to be reminding myself a lot.

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