Unhappy: An Open Letter to My Children

Dear children, my job is to make you unhappy, about half of the time.

I love you too much to let it be otherwise.

In my philosophy, disappointment should come from home first.  Here, within the loving environment of our family,  should be your first point of reference for that sensation. Just like you should first learn about how babies are made from your parents, we should be the first to introduce you to the searing fact that you are not entitled to get your way all the time. You are not the center of the universe. You are not even in the center of our family. You belong in our family, you are loved fiercely, and there is a special place just for you. It is your job to grow and learn, play, and obey. Your father and I would do you a disservice if we let you have your way all the time.  We simply love you too much for that.

Welcome to the earth: The place where people have to deal with both highs and lows.

In preparation for life on this earth, It is our job to make you unhappy half of the time, to give you practice dealing with the reality of disappointment.

If you always got your way, you would become entitled.  Which means you would never share, or wait your turn, or think of others.  People will not want to be your friend, because you will not care about them.  It’s a very selfish, lonely way to live.

If you never got your way, you would develop issues.  Which means you would not feel satisfied, or loved, or belonging.  God gave you a heart to want things, to have ideas and plans.  He said that it is good.  But if you never got your way at home, then you would start acting sneaky to get your way, and you would hide from mommy and daddy.  It’s a very secret, dark way to live.  We want you to live honestly, like the legitimate person you are.

We want you to live in the light: free to be yourself, and express your desires. We also want you to know that you are still a valuable, worthwhile person when you don’t get your way.  It doesn’t mean that you’re not important.  Your worth is safe and protected.  It just means that, in this instance, you won’t get the purple plate. Your sister will.

It means that you are growing to become a part of this big wide world.  You will learn first to be a part of this family, then a classroom, a workplace, a society, and someday, a marriage.  Acting considerate and loving all starts with working through feeling disappointed that you are not the only person who wants to have their way.  It’s not fun at first, but it’s the backbone of the Bible verse:

  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Luke 6:31

or as we say in our family,

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

And you know what?  You won’t want to do it.

That’s why we need Jesus.

He died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, for the times we hurt other people because we are acting selfishly.  He forgives us, and wants to teach us how to follow him.  If we accept him into our heart, his Holy Spirit in us will help us to obey him, and treat others the way we want to be treated.  He loves you and he will never leave you, no matter what you do.

Your mommy and daddy love you too.

But half the time, you will not get to choose the show. You will eat your apple whole, not sliced.  You will get the green plate, not the purple plate.

Because it’s our job to love you and teach you and feed you and provide for you – and make you unhappy about half of the time.  It’s the only way to open the door for you to see that there is a greater joy in loving than hating, that giving makes you happier than receiving, and that following Jesus is the most fulfilling way to live.  I know it doesn’t make sense right now.  But trust me: your future husband will thank us one day.  But for the time being, you are doing a good job practicing dealing with disappointment.  Those feelings are hard, and we care about that.  But stick with us on this, and when the time comes, you will be ready to be an adult in this wide world, with realistic expectations, a knowledge that we are cheering you on, and a certainty of who you are in Christ Jesus.

Love,

Mama

 

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Steph Lenox is a thirty-something wife/mother/writer. She writes to the mommy tribe, discovering that, in the end, it's the hard choices - and God's good grace - that feel way better than straight coffee and pastries and trash TV.

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