Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why is Happy Our New Default Setting?

Kids today don't lose.

Kids today are never picked last for games.

Kids today aren't walloped upside the head with a dodgeball.

Kids today go to college and try to diagnose every literary character's mental conditions and prescribe them the same meds they've been on since they were toddlers. It's true. Just heard it on the radio. An NYU english professor was bemoaning the fact that her students can't deal with the fact that Bartleby the Scrivener was a weird dude. They want to figure out what's wrong with him and share their prozac and lithium with him so that he lives a happier life.


Probably because they've never had to deal with disappointment or unhappiness.

This isn't to say that there aren't kids out there who need to be treated for various illnesses, mental and physical, because there certainly are. BUT, from what I hear from parents of young children, their kids never have to deal with what adults my age dealt with as kids.

My colleague at work has three kids. The two oldest play little league. They are 9 and 7. They've never lost a game until this year, since no one keeps score until they are deemed old enough to handle it. And in every game this year, every kid has to hit and field. So no one feels bad.

I played t-ball when I was 6, 7 and 8. They didn't keep score then either. But the kicker was, the kids all did. We certainly did. We knew who won and lost. And we went about our 6, 7, and 8 year old lives happily win or lose. As long as we got Slurpees. And I was terrible. I was put into the deepest part of the outfield. Or, if you prefer, the shallowest outfield position on the adjacent field, in the middle of another game. Why? Did I mention I was terrible.

You know what that taught me? Baseball wasn't my game. Nor was basketball, where I couldn't hide in the deep outfield. Soccer was ok. Street hockey was my world and I was good at that. I didn't dwell on being bad at baseball. I learned to deal with the disappointment of playing poorly, of losing almost every game, of hitting the tee farther than the ball. I adjusted and learned that I wouldn't always be happy. And I hope to buck the trend of today with my daughter. She'll lose, she'll play poorly, she'll be sad and disappointed. She'll learn to deal with this and the fact that happiness is not guaranteed.

That's the way life was and should be. Happiness should not be our default. We should expect the occasional disappointment and failure and learn to deal with them. Happiness will return, disappointments will fade, success will visit once again.

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