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The problem with happy children

Children are happy people.

For the most part, this statement is true.  My children smile, laugh, and enjoy playing with their friends and toys - or just running around behaving like kids.  They can tell you the "Interrupting Cow" knock-knock joke all day long and never find it less humorous (even when my 3-year-old doesn't quite get the joke's timing).  Yes, for the most part, this statement is true.

But, there were many times - especially during Daddy's deployment - when this statement seemed like a wish.  My 5-year-old daughter would get angry at the tiniest of things...not getting the right cup at dinnertime, having no clean pink panties, and other such minuscule things.  The anger got so bad that, at times, I felt like a failure as a mom.  I wanted to give in to her demands or just do anything to make it all better.  But, I didn't know how or what to do.  My daughter would rage at me - hitting, kicking, biting, screaming until her face was red and she was sweating.  It scared me.

After discussing my situation with friends, I made the decision to seek out professional help offered through our military base.  Through discussions with professionals, I learned something that I never really knew about, but it made sense.  A child, going through the deployment separation of a parent, responds in many ways similar to a child going through its parents' divorce.  This can lead to a child acting out - especially towards the person who is most constant in their life.

I was told that it was a blessing that my child had chosen to act out towards me.  This meant that she trusted me and knew I would be there for her.  But, it didn't make the day-to-day job of being put down any easier.  It made me exhausted and kept me praying constantly for healing to my baby girl's heart.

Thankfully, as the deployment went on, my daughter and I learned constructive ways to manage her anger.  She learned how to tell me that she "didn't feel like herself" and to ask to go to a quiet place until she felt better.  I learned not to take so much of her behavior personally and to understand that children are not always going to be happy - in fact, it's unhealthy for them to always be happy.


As I look back at the stress and emotions that were going through my and my children's lives as we coped with Daddy being deployed, I realize that we each went through moments where we didn't feel like ourselves.  We each coped with the realization that our lives - albeit, temporarily - were changed.  We each managed these stresses differently.  But, in asking for professional help, we were able to learn techniques to use to manage our stress, and we learned how to communicate in a way that helped us understand each other (despite the different ages).  And, when the deployment ended, much of the rage in my daughter dissipated.

As a parent, I want my children to be happy, but I also must realize that they are human.  And, as such, they will not always be happy.  Every human must learn to manage a multitude of emotions through any magnitude of stresses.  Happy children will not always have happy moments.  It's the journey of facing stresses together and overcoming them that makes them happy.

The problem with happy children is that, as parents, we must understand that to have happy children doesn't mean they'll be happy all the time.

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