The How of Happiness. The Now of Happiness. The Tao of Happiness. Looking for Happiness. Map To Happiness. Finding Happiness. Authentic Happiness. True Happiness. The Happiness Hypothesis. The Happiness Plan. The Happiness Project. The Happiness Solution. The Happiness Diet. And my favorite, Eat Your Way To Happiness. Books on happiness are almost as popular as ones about teenage vampires in love. Yet, for those of us with small children, it's hard to find time to read an entire book (or rinse shampoo out of our hair). But here's the good news: we're surrounded by real-life examples of people who are successfully pursuing happiness each and every day.
Yes. Young children are messy, loud, drippy and don't know how to wipe themselves. But, they're also pretty freakin' happy. And so, even though I don't have the time or energy to read a 250-page book, I have been watching my children. (I'm actually legally required to watch my children because I was told keeping a baby monitor turned up really, really high isn't proper parental supervision.) Here's why I think little kids are happiness experts.
Whether at the park or the pediatrician's office, little kids make friends quickly. "Do you want to play?" That's it. "Do you want to play?" They don't seem to worry about being rejected. I don't even think rejection crosses their mind. As adults, it is much more difficult to form a relationship so quickly. Unless you are in a bar at closing time.
Sure, little kids fight. But when it's over, it's over. They don't stew. They don't stay mad for weeks. They don't gossip on the phone about Max getting extra Goldfish during snack time. This is exactly why "Real Housewives" doesn't revolve around the lives of a bunch of four year olds.
"Why aren't bananas juicy?" "How did the first person who made pancakes know how to make pancakes?" "How did the baby get into your tummy?" There's so much to learn. And looking for answers to life's infinite puzzles makes for an interesting individual. I wish I were more curious. I should ask more questions. How does pressing a button on a remote control turn off the TV? What turns hair gray?" You would think I'd really want to get to the bottom of that one.
"Look how high I can jump!" "Look at how strong I am!" "Isn't this picture beautiful?" Some experts think today's kids have too much self esteem. They think today's parents overpraise their offspring. Possibly. But, it's also my belief that as kids, we start out filled to capacity with confidence, but -- ever so slowly -- it leaks out of us like helium from a balloon. (Sigh.)
And they don't even do it because it will look good on their résumés.
The good, the bad and the ugly. And, by ugly, I mean the things you have to apologize for on your child's behalf using lame excuses like "needs to eat" or "missed his nap." Because no one wants to publicly admit that their child is actually rested and well fed... and just poorly behaved.
You might mind, but they don't.
They'll dress themselves in fairy wings, a tutu and galoshes to go to the grocery store. Once there, they'll break into song in the cereal aisle. Having a kid is probably a lot like living with Zooey Deschanel.
Prada. Gucci. Armani. Valerie Bertinelli. (Did you know she had a clothing line, by the way?) Little kids don't care about the name on the label... as long as it's not scratchy.
Sure, you can take them to the zoo. But, you can also take them out back to look at squirrels, and then you don't have to pay for parking.
Naturally. And, sometimes, on purpose. Be warned, however, little-kid jokes are difficult to follow because most have no punch line. Also, you can't assume a joke is over because your child is laughing. Nine times out of ten, when a kid tells a joke, she's going to laugh from beginning to end.
I'm not sure at what age most of us become cynical, but it's not when we are in preschool. Of course, small children are also incredibly gullible. If you were to tell them you invented the s'more, they'd believe you. (Suckers!)
If a five year old tells you that you're the most beautiful mommy in the world, he thinks you are. If he also tells you that your bare legs remind him of daddy's beard, he thinks that as well.
Okay. Just kidding. They're absolutely, positively terrible at keeping secrets. They're the worst secret keepers EVER. But, hey, they're just kids. They can't be good at everything.
Follow Melissa Sher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mammalingo