Happiest Child


“You’re only as unhappy as your unhappiest child,” my friend who has cancer says.

I believe her.  You have to accumulate a lot of stress and heartache to get cancer.  It’s easy enough to acquire.  A small bad habit, like eating too much sugar, something I’ve done since 5-ever, can morph into a full blown health issue after decades of abuse — despite my overindulgence, so far, I’ve managed to eat enough spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower to counteract all the bad that goes with a daily pocketful of M&M’s and any other chocolate crosses my path — and if you add the passive brain that perseverates over our daily lists of to-do’s and the lack of time to achieve them; the stress of not being able to make your loved ones’ lives the bed of roses that, as parents, we believe we should have planted for them; compounded with a world that has been behaving dizzyingly poorly since we crossed over into the new millennium (as the fever-pitch level of crazy this last year has proven); and faster than quicksilver you’ve fallen into a negative mental groove that could easily manifest into something unwanted without you ever having thought too much about it until one day, pop, the dis-ease has snuck up on you without notice or regard, a fresh daily hell.  Dosed up on that kind of grief, anger or worry, you are walking around unhinged like 20 out of 24 hours a day because even your dreams are addled.  That’s what a seriously unhappy child can do to you.  

All kids are unhappy at one time or other, but it’s the long-standing and life-altering unhappiness that is difficult to navigate, the kind that leaves parents hollowed out from worry and kids frozen by discontent. And whether it’s Covid-related or the stress of modern life or the world inflicting its current manic state upon our offspring, I don’t know, but I currently have several friends who are walking on hell’s coals with, by, or because of one of their children.  We humans are fragile bubbles of emotion, and when the life we are owed is upended by a series of accidents or unfortunate incidents masquerading as seemingly impossible barriers to the happiness we believe we deserve we go “tits up” which those of you in the military will recognize as Total Inability To Support Usual Performance — i.e., flat on our backs.

To have children is to commit to a lifetime of suffering. Their aches are your aches.  Their losses, your losses.  Their victories, only theirs, which somehow doesn’t seem fair but, hey, that’s the way it is.  If my parents had a nickel for every night I came home after curfew and promised not to do it again, or said “yes, Mom,” or “yes, Dad,” and did the exact opposite, or lied through my teeth so I wouldn’t miss the bonfire before the big football game or the fill-in-the-blank thingee, they would have been rich, I suppose, but what does the universe care of nickels?  The universe deals in Karma, and my own Karma has been to house kids who think nothing of curfews or communication as to the where’s, when’s and how’s, who often saw questions such as “what time will you be home” as an infringement on their personal freedoms.  Payback, like Karma, is a big fat bitch.

I remember the time when, still in high school, I cut the headlights and pulled into my parent’s driveway at 4 a.m. after a night out with friends.  The lights in the house were all off and I was home free — woohoo! — or so I thought, until I walked into the living room and saw the red ember of my father’s cigarette glowing in the dark.  I was supposed to be home at midnight.  There were no cellphones then, but there were pay phones and you could always ask to use the phone of whatever establishment or house you were in.  I wonder how many cigarettes my father smoked that night, waiting for me to come home, nervously pacing the floor, smoke, pace, smoke, pace.  So yes, for all those times I kept my dad waiting up in the dark with only a lit cigarette for company, I have been paying it back for years now, my only consolation being that my children will understand one day when their own karma kicks in.

Do you have a child that can vacillate between happy and unhappy from day to day, sometimes minute to minute? If you think the latter is some kind of poetic license, you’ve not been in close personal contact with today’s offspring.  The behavior of today’s offspring is enough to worry even the most robust of parents.  Then again, when I think back to my days at this age, I was probably more mercurial than most.  Karma?  Genetics?  Not enough sleep?  Too much stress?  It’s not like there’s any of that these days, right?  Too much sugar?  Is half the minor population ADD or ADHD and on adderall?  Is it the food?  Have pesticides finally done us in by changing the biology of an entire generation?

The joy and pain of every mother is the labor and the leaving; ten months of having that baby all to yourself and then they pop right out of you and into the world, no longer yours to control.  The joy and pain of every parent is watching that child grow to maturity and then walking right out the door where you can no longer hover about, making sure it all goes according to plan.  The joy and pain of every parent is watching your child become exactly who they are meant to be and not feeling personally responsible for getting them there and not taking it personally when they don’t achieve every last one of your dreams because — their life, their dreams.

You are only as happy as your unhappiest child.  The best we can do as parents then is to raise the happiest children we can.  Then maybe we, too, will have a shot at happiness.  That means letting them lead when life and opportunities warrant so they can test their own limits and abilities.  The trick is not to get hung up on the outcome either way. 

Good luck to all of us with that one.  I, for one, am going to need it.

It is International Women’s month.  Go thank a woman you love — give her a big hug while you’re at it.

pam lazos 3.6.21

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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28 Responses to Happiest Child

  1. Pat Dodson says:

    Pam, I finally stole a few minutes to see what your fertile mind has conjured. This is a lovely, gentle piece. Welcome to the bumpy ride called parenthood. It comes in all shapes and sizes. All colors and moods. It is happy and sad. It is never-ending, thank God. The Mom role is cradle to grave, no pun intended. I remember a few go-rounds with my parents too. And so it goes, like a ball of yard unraveling into infinity and beyond! All I can offer is, hold on tight. You can do it, even when you don’t even want to! Tomorrow will be something entirely different. The unhappiest child may be in a better frame of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hilarymb says:

    Hi Pam – not having kids … I can only imagine the heartache I caused at times, as my parents had to deal with their own heartache. But I have remembered women in my life – then and today … and admire us all for what we do and how we manage. All the best as we ease out of this stranglehold on our lives – stay safe – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  3. fgsjr2015 says:

    Society collectively perceives thus treats human procreative rights as though we’ll somehow, in blind anticipation, be innately inclined to sufficiently understand and appropriately nurture our children’s naturally developing minds and needs.

    For decades I have strongly felt that a psychologically sound as well as a physically healthy future should be all children’s foremost right—especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Linda Schaub says:

    I’ve never had children but I remember my parents telling me that they’d hear me come in the door and I’d be later than my time they wanted me home. I thought I had made it scot-free and stole down the hall to my bedroom, but the pesky squeaky board in the hall floor, under the carpet, always gave me away, so they’d politely inquire what time it was.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wonderful post Pam, and oh so true. Being a parent is truly the hardest job in the world and takes everything we have. My daughters now have teenagers and are finding out and hopefully understanding how hard it can be sometimes, and maybe understanding me.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “We humans are fragile bubbles of emotion” — an excellent summary of much of the human condition.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Suzanne R says:

    Happy Women’s Month, Pammy! The nuns used to tell us that whatever we did to our parents, we would get back from our children “bushel-full, packed-down, and running over”. Between the nuns and my parents, I was too scared to do anything wrong (but I’m making up for it now!). With all sincerity, I always felt fortunate that my kids weren’t hanging on street corners doing drugs or drinking. We sincerely have to try to communicate with and understand them and compromise when possible because you always have to keep in the back of your mind that they will, some day, pick your nursing home for you. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  8. My oldest two were teeenaers before cell phones, but they were good about calling me if they were going to be late or spend the night at a friend’s house. They had a saying, “You can get away with murder, as long as you call Mama.” My youngest had a cell phone, but she’d turn it off so I couldn’t call her when I got worried! I survived, and so did she. Somehow, I’ve been blessed with wonderful grandchildren. I live with the hope we can give them the world they deserve.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Pam Lazos says:

      What a great saying, Marie! My dad’s was, if you’ve done something wrong better tell me first because it will be worse for you if I hear it on the street (meaning from someone else).😂

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Great post, Pam! My heart goes out to your friend who has two kinds of cancer. You are spot on when you say: “To have children is to commit to a lifetime of suffering. Their aches are your aches. Their losses, your losses. Their victories, only theirs, which somehow doesn’t seem fair but, hey, that’s the way it is.” Sending you a big hug on International Women’s Day ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  10. MariHoward says:

    How true! Our daughter is now battling along with a child who, I think after hearing him today, can out-do how his mum was at arguing, screeching, and accusing Mum of being the worst person s/he knows… what fun it all is, and how Karma gets you back! Yet people long for a baby…! We are all human… I’m thankful for having to bring up ours when we did -if anything, it is harder in this weird world we’re in now – and they’ll have to deal with more climate crisis than known ever before… and the covid tehing makes it look like th e meanness of nations towards one another won’t ever go away, and the lack of governments listening to scientists who know…and so it goes…! At least you have a new President…

    Liked by 3 people

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