Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy, Happy, Happy

I hate it when this happens. When one organization or another releases a study where it purports to tell us something illuminating about our own lives, or about what we should be doing with our lives based on the results of a poll.

This leads me to this latest poll. Among the subjects of this new poll was the question of what makes children happy. Now, when I saw the headline about what makes children happy, I immediately thought of these things:

-- Unlimited amounts of candy, sweets and ice cream.
-- TV, the sillier the better.
-- Birthday parties.
-- Playing with friends.
-- Pillow fights.
-- Laughing and goofing around with their parents.
-- Reading.
-- Rainbows.
-- All things “Star Wars,” “Toy Story,” “Harry Potter,” “High School Musical” and “Hannah Montana.”
-- Snow days.
-- Looking at firetrucks, race cars and construction equipment.
-- Carnival rides.
-- Christmas morning.

But the most important thing, beyond all of the aforementioned kid-centric goodies, that I think kids would identify as something that makes them happy would be a happy family. Happy comes in many shapes and sizes. In our house, our kids – ages 6, almost 9 and almost 9 -- seem happiest on mornings when we can all sleep in and everyone piles into Mom and Dad’s bed and we all act goofy and tell stories. And they seem to adore our family movie nights. And when we read funny stories complete with funny voices. Or when we play a game outside or simply shoot hoops in the driveway.

So, how did my visions of childhood happiness jive with the results of a new AP-MTV poll of kids ages 13-24? While my list is more appropriate to the under-12 set, I wasn’t too far off with my main assumption:

“Spending time with family was the top answer to that open-ended question,according to an extensive survey -- more than 100 questions asked of 1,280 people ages 13-24 -- conducted by The Associated Press and MTV on the nature of happiness a mong America's young people.

Next was spending time with friends, followed by time with a significant other. And even better for parents: Nearly three-quarters of young people say their relationship with their parents makes them happy.

‘They're my foundation,’ says Kristiana St. John, 17, a high-school student from Queens in New York. ‘My mom tells me that even if I do something stupid, she's still going to love me no matter what. Just knowing that makes me feel very happy and blessed.’

. . . Finally, when asked to name their heroes, nearly half of respondents mentioned one or both of their parents. The winner, by a nose: Mom.”

*sniff, grabbing a tissue*

So, long after my kids age out of their fascination with “Star Wars” and firetrucks, I hope that the simple times of goofing around and sharing a laugh or two with their family will still top my children’s lists of things that make them happy. . . or else they’ll use our goofy/laughing business as fodder for their therapists’ sessions as to why their parents’ senses of humor are totally messed up.

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