The Happiness Decision
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln
“Are you happy?”
The first time my three year old daughter, Frankie, asked me that question thought, “aw that’s cute.” But the consistency that she’d asked me that question made me realize that maybe I needed to work on my happiness factor.
When my kid asked me daily if I was okay, that’s a pretty good indicator that maybe I overreacted when Rick Astley came on in the car (Rick, that certain someone who was my 12 year old self’s foundation, my everything, my bible for how my adult life should be) and screamed, “Screw you Rick! It is so not like that!!!! Oh you let me down Rick. You sure did.”
When I watched Yo Gabba Gabba and burst into tears during their lesson on loneliness sobbing because I felt Muno’s pain. Warning bells should have be flashing.
When the sweet salvation army man asked for a donation and my first response was: “Charity!? I am my own freakin’ charity. I have kids. I’m doing my time! What do you got for me man??” I knew I had to chill out a little bit.
I would never hesitate to smell my kid’s butts (or others kids for that matter) to see if they pooped. I’ve used a nasal aspirator to baste a rotisserie chicken. I’ve said things like “It’s not okay!” or “Because I’m you’re mom!”, things I swore I would never say to my kids. I’ve had to hold my crying baby on my chest while I was getting waxed, because she thought she was in a doctors office. This is my life.
And when I tried to have some mommy time and do my own thing I got way too absorbed in it. For instance, I accidentally emailed my sexy headshot out as our Christmas card further fueling my husband’s theory that I’m too self involved.
Am I being a brat? Should this not totally suck? Maybe. But let me tell you something. I don’t care what anyone says. Motherhood can really suck. And there are periods where it sucks most of the time. If anyone tells you different, they are lying or on mass amounts of drugs.
I was in no way balanced. My karma was complete crap. My internal fung shui was screwed. I had placed a toilet right in the middle of my chest cavity.
So I decided to do a little experiment. I turned from my usual pessimistic “Don’t crap on me. I’ll crap on you bigger” stance. I could either change my mind or change my circumstances. Children are not returnable. (I’m kidding!) So the mind it is. I was going to decide to be happy.
I went to bed Mrs. Hannigan and woke up June Cleaver. June Cleaver if she had tattoos and listened to the Pixies. I put on clothes that were bright and non- Robert Smith like. Hell, I even showered before two o’clock. I was going to embark on a journey of positivity!
The kids and I started the day with a picnic breakfast and had coco puffs in the backyard. I could get used to this. I made myself stay at kid eye line all morning. This was awesome. I felt the burden of hostility ease up. Even if all they want to do is jump on my stomach like it’s a trampoline. I left my pile of work until nap time. I didn’t even check my email until bedtime. In fact I kept all internet off limits to avoid getting annoyed by other’s mom’s status updates on facebook about their perfect kids. No more sadly stalking my single friends’ profiles to live the single life vicariously through them. No more day dreaming about the fact that they can go to the coffee shop without having to be prepared for any poop or pee emergency. No more going to Starbucks and seeing a chick that has clearly been out since the night before and thinking, “Man the puke on your sweater is so much cooler than the baby puke on mine.”
My mind was in the moment. And cool stuff started to happen. Frankie’s sang “You’re every woman in the world to me” about 20 twenty times and her dreamy eyes were catching because I found myself singing along. Zoe, my eighteen month old, insisted on sitting on my face when I was lying on the floor and I was just happy she doesn’t have a leaky diaper. Frankie demanded her usual non stop stream of food all day and I decided to make a healthy snack bar and she could only get stuff if she paid me in fake money (Fun and educational! I’m mom of the year!). And Frankie didn’t come up to me once asking, “Mama, Owie eyes?”
Then I did the ultimate test. I went out in public. Guess what I found? You smile, people smile back. Did you see a thirty-something small blonde smiling like an idiot walking down the street today? That was me.
On the freeway I pretended a real a-hole was rushing to meeting the love of his life so I could find his nearly killing me changing lanes romantic. Who can’t forgive a good love emergency?
At the park, a mom that I would normally ignore and make fun of in my head asked me if it was okay she gave Frankie a snack because it looks like we came unprepared and I didn’t say anything smart assed back!
I finished up my trip on the good vibes train by putting on some Youtube’d Rick Astley. I let myself get swept away by the wonderful contrast of his baby-faced good looks and deep manly voice. I felt pretty good. Even if my first instinct when I saw the park kid’s stuffed Barney was to burn it to the ground. I was getting the hang of it. Happy was kind of... nice. Balance felt very Mr. Miyagi-like.
“Today was good. Wasn’t it babe?” I asked Frankie.
“Yeah. But mama you weren’t as funny.”
That’s it. Experiment over. I couldn’t give up the funny! It’s all I’ve got.
“I can’t do this,” I thought to myself. “Motherhood is hard. Trying to have a life and be a mom is hard.” (I’m well aware that I was whining, but give me a second.)
“Yeah babe?” I said exasperated.
“I love you,” Frankie said.
“I love you too,” I sighed.
“I love you 11,” She said. I smiled.
“I love you 24,” I said.
“I love you 79!” She said erupting into laughter.
Aw well. And with that the happiness decision was made.
Beth writes everything from screenplays to picture books to novels to essays to blogs. Her first picture book, Kiko the Hawaiian Wave is available on www.betherebedtimestories.com. See more of her humorous parenting blogs on www.sahmmy.com/mothernaked .You can find out about Beth’s writing and acting projects at www.bethnavarro.com.
Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of the “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.