Personal Essay- Parenting (Why My Son's Happiness Depresses Me)

My five-year-old son Sawyer is by far the happiest person I know. He wakes up in the morning signing, goes to be at night joking, and has a smile on his face 90% of the time in between. Everyone comments on it from family to his teachers to strangers. He can't even really throw a proper temper tantrum, because after about three minutes he's both bored of it and laughing again. His default setting is happy. 

But someday something is going to happen to ruin this, whether it's the natural aging process, some sort of negative event, or someone doing him wrong. I'm under no false illusions that he will stay this happy for the rest of his life, at least not in the naive, carefree way he is now. And this is so... depressing. It sounds weird, right? To say that my son's happiness depresses the shit out of me? But I guess it's not really his sunny disposition that is the source of my unrest, but instead knowing that at some point he's probably going go through some sort of pain that will pop this joyful bubble of his. To make matters worse, there's really nothing I can do about it.

But would doing something about it be the right thing? While protecting your child from true danger (accidents, disease, abduction, etc...) is totally appropriate and necessary, the lesser evils of life that might chip away at the happiness are essentially necessary. As much as it pains me to say it, he's going to need a friend to stop being his friend or a crush to rebuff him. He's going to need to have an asshole teacher who always picks apart his work and a coach that makes him run extra laps. This is what prepares kids for life outside of public school and the family home, it's what makes their skin grow a little thicker so they're not devastated every time something doesn't go their way once grown. We all know adults who are terrible problems-solvers and completely meltdown when life doesn't go according to plan, and one has to wonder what their childhood was life. I'm not advocating for parents to make the lives of their offsprings intentionally or constantly terrible, but rather help facilitate the obstacles that will inevitably come up as they approach adulthood. 

And I suppose that he may truly always be a happy person. It's not like those don't exist. While I don't consider myself a cupful of rainbows and sunshine, I am fairly positive and try to find the best in most situations. And I know a lot of happy friends, coworkers, and family members, just all dialed back from the unabashed joy he currently possesses. 

So, I have to hope for the best. I hope he can stay this happy for as long as possible and that whatever detracts from this isn't abnormally painful or unpleasant for him, just your standard childhood challenges. And I need to be present in his life as much as possible to enjoy it, and to be able to remember it later. As a teacher and realistic person, I know how kids are as they grow up. But as a mom? It really does bum me out that my smiling little buddy might not always be that way. 

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