I've seen questions surrounding the idea of a 'happy family' in the past couple of days. The first was asking for the opinion of people who had a 'happy childhood' about what made their childhood happy, and the other - just now in my inbox - asked, 'Is your family as happy as you would like it to be?'
I imagine if I clicked through from that email in my inbox, I'd received a list of things I could do to make my family happier if I didn't feel they were as happy as I'd like them to be.
Can a family ever be as happy as we'd like them to be, I mean for more than a moment in time?
The other night I watched 'Deep Impact' for the fifty millionth time. At one point Tea Leoni's character is reminiscing with her dad about 'one perfect day' they had together during her childhood before her parents split up.
A single perfect day?
I wonder how often I've tried to make this happen with my family. Creating a picture perfect day where people are all smiling and happy and getting along. A day where every day worries aren't lingering behind our eyes causing our smiles to drop in unguarded moments?
I have never succeeded in making such a day happen.
We haven't had our 'one perfect day' yet.
I suspect those days don't really exist. I suspect they're a construct of advertising and movies and stories we're told as children. I suspect they're an ideal and as such, they're lovely to imagine, but striving for them will only bring frustration and disappointment and possibly even a feeling of having failed some sort of essential test.
Is my family as happy as I'd like it to be? Hell no! Of course it isn't. I'd love us all to live stress-free lives and to feel fulfilled all the time, and never be sick - of each other, mostly.
There are many ways in which I can fool myself in thinking, 'If only...'
If only we owned our own home.
If only we had a car.
If only the Grumpy Old Man had a job.
If only I could get published.
If only it was always sunny and 25 degrees with a light breeze.
If only we won the lotto.
The problem with that way of thinking is it doesn't address the main problem, which is our attitude. I think happy families have great attitudes. They accept that life isn't always going to be straight forward and stress free. They accept that each member has his or her own needs, personalities and idiosyncrasies and that sometimes we will irritate one another or even downright piss each other off. They know that someone throwing a tantrum or not smiling all day long can't 'spoil the day', that only each individual can really do that for themselves by focusing on the blemishes rather than the beauty.
Happy families forgive and laugh and don't let little things become big things that block out the sun.*
Based on that, I think we have a happy family.
We're definitely not a Kellogg's ad family, or an Omo family, but sometimes for very brief and flighty moments, if you squint and hold your breath, we could be mistaken for one.
That's enough for me!
* This is where I'd like to acknowledge that happy families come in all sorts of sizes and shapes; they include single parent families and blended families as a result of separation or divorce. Sometimes happy families need restructuring to truly be happy!