to be happy

You can't make paella without saffron, and I forgot to buy saffron when I did the grocery shopping on Monday.

The paella is non-negotiable, as it is in honor of our sole Spanish student in the ESL program, and the end-of-semester dinner is nine hours away. So 8:30 AM finds us in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

We shop quickly and successfully, gliding through the aisles. I'm a marvel of a parent. The three year old and the one year old stay in the cart, with only minor whining. We get to the checkout.

And then. Of course. For some reason they won't let me pay with the diaper, the pink Pull-Up, the half-bag of Cadbury eggs left over from Easter, the plastic cell phone, or even my keys. I've exhausted the contents of my green suede purse. My wallet is in my red leather school satchel. At home.

It's not a big deal. It's just that our four square miles of town rests a solid 25 minutes from any grocery store which might carry saffron.

I sigh. We rebuckle carseats and prepare for another hour in the car.

"What's wrong, mommy?" Rosie asks.

"I'm just feeling a little mad at myself for forgetting my purse," I admit. (I euphemize. A little mad: reasonable substitute for pissed off.)

"Don't be mad, mommy. God wants us to be happy."

"Does he?" I ask. I am really asking.


I tell her I will turn on some music to try to cheer myself up. I search for the CD with Adele and Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. I tell her we will stop at the coffeeshop and get ourselves a little cinnamon treat to cheer ourselves up.

God wants us to be happy.


The last thing I want is to teach my daughter to believe in some kind of easy, name-it-claim-it happy faith.

No, the last thing I want is to teach her that she has to deny her emotions -- anger, frustration -- and pretend to be happy, because that's what God wants her to be.

And I don't think I've taught her that. I try to model expressing negative emotions in healthy ways. (Of course, I also seem to model medicating emotions with music and sugar-indulgence. Need to work on that.)


But I'm also not going to argue with her when she says that God wants us to be happy. I'm not going to say, "But what if God is more interested in us being holy than happy?"

She's not old enough to understand the ways in which being holy is the same as being happy. Maybe I'm not old enough to understand that either.

I believe God wants us to be happy. And I know why Rosie believes it. She heard it in the Bible, the one we've already read a half a dozen times.

From the beginning, God's children had been running from him and hiding. God knew his children could never be happy without him. But they couldn't get back to him by themselves -- they were lost, they didn't know the way back...

Jesus knew it was nearly time for him to leave the world and go back to God.
"I won't be with you long," he said. "You are going to be very sad. But God's Helper will come. And then you'll be filled up with a Forever Happiness that won't ever leave.
So don't be afraid.
You are my friends
and I love you.

We have reason to be happy. I just needed to be reminded.

patience and parenting and princess bikes

I'm not really one to tell people how to parent. (Or how to do anything, really; I have serious reservations about making general statements of "truth".)


I will say that one thing I've grown to appreciate in the three and a half years I've been parenting is the value of waiting.

When Rosie was a baby, I spent way too many hours reading books and making charts and wondering what I was doing wrong as I tried to get her to sleep through the night.

The more I talked to other moms, and read other blogs, the more I realized that there wasn't one right way to parent, and that the fact that Rosie wasn't sleeping through the night wasn't a sign that i was parenting wrong. For me, having patience as I taught my daughter that she was heard and safe and cared for was the right thing.

It was the same with potty training. I pushed Rosie to do it when I was ready and she wasn't, and it didn't work. Months later, when she was ready for it, potty training was a breeze. It took a day and a half.

So with the pacifier thing, I've been waiting. I ignored the doctor and dentist who suggested I get rid of it. Of course, I haven't been totally passive. We did restrict paci usage to bed or rest time only. And we have talked on plenty of occasions about what it means to become a big girl. But my intuition told me that I was not to be the one to force my daughter to give up her dearest comfort (the mere mention of getting rid of it elicited tears, every time) and "grow up". I kept thinking about the story Grams tells of Aunt Patty, stubbornly throwing her pacifier in the fire place and declaring she was done. I wanted to wait until Rosie was ready, like little Patty, to resolve for herself.

We had mentioned -in passing, maybe twice- that bikes were for big girls. And so on Saturday when Rosie saw the neighborhood girls riding bikes again, she came straight home and threw her pacifier in the trash. "I want a bike," she said. And she went to sleep that night, and the next, without even a single tear. On Sunday she picked this bike out, and today she has ridden up and down our street for about four hours.

Waiting until your kid is ready makes parenting so much easier.