Chances are that if you ask any expectant parent what their hopes are about their pregnancy the overwhelming odds are that they will respond – “all we want is a happy and healthy baby”. In fact, the phrase happy and healthy is so common that it should be catalogued as part of the standard and universally accepted expecting parent lexicon.
Yet for all its tradition and commonality, happy and healthy is more than just a customary expression. Happy and healthy is actually a powerful manifestation that transcends even the socioeconomic and racial demographics that too often separate human beings. All expecting parents – regardless of a parent’s race, creed, religion, national origin, gender or the like – hope and pray for a happy and healthy baby.
Declaration of Independence
The Founding Fathers, like all expecting parents, ascribed to a similar desire that the children of this Nation be happy and healthy (slaves and women notwithstanding). And while the “Declaration of Independence” makes no mention of health, one could infer that the value of health was implicitly understood by the Founding Fathers.
Their is no need for speculation when it comes to “happiness”, however. The “Declaration” makes explicit reference to certain unalienable rights – among these “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
What I am about to say next might seem blasphemous to some but I think the “Framers” should have done a better job explaining “happiness”. As things stand, many mistakenly believe life, liberty and happiness are all acquired the same way. The unmistakable truth is that the “pursuit of happiness” bears a very important distinction from “life and liberty”.
“Life and liberty” particularly for those living in a free society is effortless. Life and liberty for an American citizen is realized the moment the American baby takes their first breath. Happiness, on the other hand, is a very different story. Happiness as the “Framers” wrote – but few children recognize and fewer parents themselves understand – only comes after “the pursuit”.
Quest For Camelot
In 1998, Naeem and I went to see the movie “Quest For Camelot”. It wasn’t a great movie but as any good parent knows the quality of children’s movie is secondary to spending time with your child. As was so often the case, when the movie was released on DVD, we bought a copy.
Of course, we had to have our own copy otherwise how were we supposed to watch it again and again and again. (A momentary departure: would it be acceptable grammatically if I include the word “again” another four-hundred and ninety-seven times? I’m almost positive we watched many of his animated movies five hundred or more times. Okay, I digress. But thanks for allowing me the chance to vent.)
At any rate, beyond the lifetime of viewing pleasure that owning a personal copy of “Quest For Camelot” afforded us, “Quest For Camelot” offered two invaluable concepts that I was able to share with a three-year-old. The first concept was restitution. Whenever Naeem insisted on watching the movie – especially during those days when I was forced to watch it with him multiple times in the same a day – I would remind him that a day would come when he would have children of his own and he would suffer a similar fate. I assured him back then and I reiterate those same words today, “Naeem I will have my restitution”.
The second concept is free from the agonizing and haunting memories of being held captive by a three-year-old and any diabolical plans I may have to exact future vengeance. Serendipitously, “Quest For Camelot” gave Naeem and me the opportunity to talk about the meaning of the word “quest”.
Happiness Is A Quest
Although “Quest For Camelot” was an animated feature about the trials and tribulations of an adventurous girl, a young blind hermit and a goofy two headed dragon who were trying to save Excalibur, King Arthur and Camelot, our discussions transcended the movie. I’m not sure how much Naeem cared about what I was saying to him at the time but history indicates that some of those early conversations resonated with him.
We talked about his own life, his future and the constant requirement for him to have goals and a plan to endure all the challenges ahead. Most importantly, we talked about why all his movies seem to end “happily ever after”.
I don’t think he would mind so I’ll tell you what I told him then and what I continue to tell him today. Your movies ended “happily ever after” because the main characters understood their purpose and they were willing to fight to the very end to see their purpose fulfilled. In other words, the main characters were unrelenting when it came to accomplishing their quest. The characters in your movie accepted the fact that happiness never occurs before the pursuit.
Are You Happy?
Do yourself a favor. Take a few minutes to reflect on what it means to be “happy”. You can start by asking yourself the following:
- When was the last time I asked my child if they were happy?
- When was the last time I took an assessment of my own happiness?
- What do I consider “happily ever after”?
- Am I raising children who believe happiness is static?
- Does my child expect to live “happily ever after”?
- Am I raising children who believe happiness is a universal privilege or the right of a few?
- Am I raising children who believe happiness is dependent on the efforts of others?
- Do I wait on others to make me happy?
- What makes me happy?
- What makes my child happy?
- Have I prepared my child to pursue happiness?
- How am I prepared to pursue happiness?
The aforementioned are but a few questions I to encourage you to think about happiness. Feel free to ask yourself additional questions and by all means share your questions and responses with us.
For now, I’ll close with my own declaration. A declaration born out of the incessant viewing of the “Quest For Camelot”. A declaration you can and will hopefully share with your children.
All people are created with an equal ability to be happy; happiness is a lifelong journey not a material possession or a GPS location; no one possesses an exclusive right or guarantee to be happy; and only those who are totally committed to “the pursuit” will ever find, know, and experience true and lasting happiness.
Even after your baby was born, did you continue to believe that being happy and healthy was all that mattered? What did your parents tell you about “the pursuit of happiness”?
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