Saturday, February 9, 2013

If it makes you happy

Parents want their kids to be happy. Sometimes they give in a little too much to accommodate their happiness. Sometimes they try to block that happiness in the name of practicality. Sometimes the parents just think they know better.

And it all depends on the stage in parenting and there's a fine line. You can't give kids everything that makes them happy. If we all did that we'd have a society of cranky, sleep deprived, sugar buzzed, lazy kids. We have to step in and steer them in the right direction even if it causes some unhappiness.

When they grow up its an entirely different ball game. They often know better than you do what makes them happy. They still could use our guidance, but once they're past that magic age of 18, your input isn't always what matters most and it doesn't hold the same weight it always did.

Last spring I became the parent of an adult. It still blows my mind that my baby is grown up. And as he neared graduation and I tried to steer him in the direction I thought was best for him, he wasn't interested. He wanted nothing more than to follow in his dad's footsteps and do what he's been dreaming about since he was 3-years-old - being a firefighter.

He'd been a cadet and not long after turning 18 became a probationary firefighter and enrolled in the fire academy. There will always be a part of me inside sighing and wondering why he can't just get a desk job so his mom won't have to worry. But, I don't want him to make me happy. I want him to be happy.

In reality, I am so stinkin' proud. I really am. It's just a lot of worry for one mom with both a husband and a son in a profession that can be pretty dangerous. There is a good amount of downtime and there's a lot of routine stuff that gets done that isn't remotely dangerous, like washing a rig. That's what I tell myself all the time. Then I talk to hubby after a shift and he mentions that he extricated someone from a vehicle or performed CPR on someone and I remember how truly important and amazing the job is that he does everyday and I'm in awe of him.

Last night my son was gone at the fire station until long after I'd been in bed (something that's been hard for me to adjust to), so I didn't see him until this morning. He walked in the room with the biggest smile I think I've ever seen on him. When I asked what was up, he told me he'd gone to his first fire. Ah, I remembered when his dad went on his first call and when he worked his first fire. I understood why he was so excited.

He's literally dreamed of being a firefighter since he was 3. That's when my husband joined the fire department. As a preschooler, he memorized every piece of equipment the department had. He played dispatcher with the phone, taking emergency calls and sending out crews. He dressed in authentic kid-sized turnout gear we bought him and did countless stuffed animal rescues. He attended a local junior fire academy as many times as he could before he got too old for it. Then he went back as a helper. He tagged along as much as he could when his dad was at the firehouse, stopping there with him for a cup of coffee or to check his mailbox. He memorized the numbers on every fire hydrant in town. He was in love at a young age with the fire service and seemed destined to be part of it and as much as I tried to deny it, he's even more in love with it now.

If it was really entirely up to me, he'd be working a desk job right now or away from home on a college campus. But it's not up to me. It's up to him. And really, I do just want for him to be happy no matter what path he chooses. And that smile said it all. He's doing something that makes him happier than I think I've ever seen him. How could I want him to do anything else?

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