It's the million-dollar question, isn't it? As adults, this question is loaded with additional questions about what true happiness is, fulfillment, success, love, and multiple other connections and connotations that make us generally unable to answer in one simple thought, phrase, or word.
As I reflected on this thought recently, I was brought back to a memory of my son when he was two. One day, when he was in a particularly talkative mood, I was working diligently to engage him in any conversation I could. Because really, what is cuter than a two-year-old having a matter-of-fact conversation with an adult? Little did I know that my effort to engage my son, would truly engage me, and bring a perspective that I wouldn't have ever imagined.
So, I asked him, as we looked into the eyes of his stuffed Winnie the Pooh, and I observed him.
"Does Pooh look happy?"
He studied Pooh for a few moments and then looked back at me. "Yes, I think Pooh is happy."
"I am glad Pooh is happy," I replied. " What makes you happy?"
After I asked him this question, it struck me that in the two-and-a-half years of his life, I had never asked him this question. He pondered for a moment and he replied with a simple answer.
"Blue," he told me, beaming with joy.
Well, of course blue makes him happy! Why wouldn't it?
After this interaction with my son, I could not get the thought of our sweet, simple conversation out of my head. Why had I never asked him what makes him happy? I have spent many, many hours of his life worrying about being a good parent, doing my best to make sure he is well cared for, healthy, and happy. However, I had never before asked HIM what it might be that would fulfill my wish for him. Now, I am realistic, I know that a two-year-old doesn't REALLY comprehend what that question might mean, but when I think about it....it doesn't really matter what my reality is. It's about his reality.
One of the many inspirations behind my work is to inspire families to model for children that it is important to take care of themselves, to know themselves, and to honor the unique and amazing people they are. To instill potential for happiness. I want parents to be armed with tools to ensure children are supported and feel secure, understand their value, and can help them become confident in who they are and what is important to them at an early age. We invest SO much in sports, piano lessons, and making sure they are eating the right foods (all good things that promote happiness). Why don't we also start the process of ensuring that they grow up to be confident, self-aware, emotionally healthy people too?
Why don't we ask them what makes them happy EVERY DAY, and make sure we practice those things too?
Well, if we are not, we should. We can start by acknowledging children's beliefs about themselves and what makes them happy, and making sure that they feel heard. As parents we do have the knowledge and understanding of life enough to know many general things that will keep our children safe, well cared for, feeling secure and loved, etc. But, in the process of "knowing" all of these things, let's not forget to ask our children. Let's not forget that their reality is completely different (and more amazing) than ours.
Let's ask them what makes them happy and revel in the wonder and joy of their answers.
Maybe this will also remind us to soak up every minute of our own true happiness...them.