Happiness Can Be a High Bar

Content warning: There is a brief description of gun violence and sexual entitlement in this post

Shortly after Elizabeth was born I watched a TED Talk entitled “For parents, happiness is a very high bar.” At the time, I was coming out of a few really challenging weeks and needed something to assure me that I was not failing as a new parent.

First, I had returned to work in a brand-new job that I loved (although it didn’t take long for me to stop loving it). Although I loved my job, it was hard to be away from my baby for nearly 50 hours every week and I was learning a whole new skill set that included “killing it at work on 4 hours of sleep or less” and “delicately extracting myself from meetings to pump”.

Second, shortly after my new job started there was a shooting at a university in California. The shooting involved some young men who felt they were owed sex during their first year of college and when they didn’t have any they shot up the sorority they primarily blamed. I was a wreck! What had we done, bringing a little girl into this world?

Third, Elizabeth was on a medication during the first year of her life because she had a non-cancerous hemangioma on her eyelid and it was blocking her vision. The medication was to shrink down the hemangioma so that her vision pathways could develop, but a side effect was low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can be deadly in infants, so Elizabeth had to eat every six hours no matter what. I am sure you can imagine my distress when she went on a week-long bottle refusing strike. Thankfully it all came out all right in the end, but that week was really challenging.

With all of this, it’s no wonder at all that I was looking for reassurance everywhere that I could.  So when Ms. Senior shared the words she spoke to her son after his birth I was so relieved and have, generally speaking, adopted those words as a mantra; “I will try so hard not to hurt you.”

Happiness is a high bar, and regardless of the age of the person, nobody has the power to make another person happy. I say this after having put Ada to bed and letting her cry it out for roughly 30 minutes because whenever I’d try to comfort her I’d be met with a punch to the face. I could not make her happy, she had to work through those feelings on her own. But teaching our kids to be productive, compassionate people is something that is within our power and the happiness will come.

Photo by Alejandro Alvarez on Unsplash

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