My friend, Donna, and I both have grown children. She has three daughters. I have three daughters and one son. We are both grandmothers. I live in Los Angeles, and she lives in Las Vegas, so we don’t see each other very often, but we talk on the phone frequently, especially when one or both of us feels the need to vent about the kids and grandkids. Recently Donna made the statement “We are only as happy as our unhappiest child.” In theory, that sounds like something a loving, nurturing mother would say. After all who is going to be dancing a jig and singing “Oh Happy Day” if one (or even worse, several) of our kids is miserable. The problem is the more children you produce, the better the chance that at least one of them is unhappy, whether it is a short term malaise or a valley that stretches for many miles. Obviously all of my kids are far younger than me, so they have a better chance of their happy days outnumbering their unhappy ones, and, besides their angst, I have some well-earned angst of my own. The fact is I have a personality that is two distinct sides of a coin. I can be quite chipper and prone to counting my blessings, or I can be fairly morose, and equally prone to counting my problems. Because I don’t want to shuffle along in a haze of misery, I have learned to take charge of and be pretty proactive about my own contentment, but there are many days when I have to work at it, because my life, for the most part, does not resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and my default setting tends more to coming unglued than peaceful serenity. I am usually able to cut off cluttered thoughts at the pass, but if I were to ponder my children’s potential unhappiness (and for that matter, the collective unhappiness of the world), I would be a raw nerve gushing a geyser of misery. What if my kids took turns being unhappy rather than at least having the consideration to all be miserable in one fell swoop? If that happened, I could be content for the brief period of time it took one to recover, only to be mowed over like a field of grass when another called to recount their tale of woe.
Fortunately my children are private people, far more private than me, in fact, so I don’t know every time they are unhappy, and if I did have “mommy radar” about those issues, I would be forced to disable it, because both of us being unhappy would not solve anything.
I probably wouldn’t be belaboring all this, but I just read an article in a women’s magazine where the author trotted out that same statement as my friend, Donna. “You are only as happy as your unhappiest child.” This woman totally lost credibility with me in the next paragraph when she recounted how all four of her children were doing well in their professional and personal lives. Apparently three are deliriously happily married and one of them is over the moon joyfully engaged. To that lady I say, write a similar article when one of your children is homeless, one is in rehab, one is in the process of a tumultuous divorce and one is miserably employeed as a pizza delivery person with three kids to support. Then I might take you more seriously. In the meantime, I am throwing that statement out the window and coming up with a new one. “Adult kids are only as happy as their mama,” so keep those compliments and gifts coming, cause if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.