Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding My Happy Place by Liimu

Years ago, when my brother's branding business was thriving on Park Avenue, I remember us sitting at a fancy NYC restaurant called "America" while he grilled me on my plans for the future. "Be the best at whatever you do," he advised, unsolicited. "If you're going to be a singer, be the BEST singer. A teacher, hell, a janitor - whatever it is just don't settle for being anything less than the BEST."

I finished chewing my yummy mouthful of food, then turned to him and said, "See, that's the difference with you and me. You're so concerned with being the BEST at whatever you do, at beating out all the competition. I just want to be HAPPY."

I don't know if it's a disservice to my children that I still feel this way to this day. Sure, kids like the Jacksons rose to stardom after being pushed by their parents to be the best - of course, we also know the sad, darker side of that story. Now, I'm not saying that encouraging your children to be the best they can be is a bad thing, or that it generally leads to an unhappy adulthood. Quite the contrary - I think kids who are supported to follow their dreams with unbridled passion to be the best they can be grow up to be hugely successful. I think that whether or not they grow up to be happy has to do with whether or not happiness is ALSO a priority. I want my children to be the best they can be AND be happy, not regardless of whether or not they are happy. In fact, if we have to choose, I'm choosing happiness.

We have tons of enrichment summer camps to choose from in our area - I offered to send my kids to Future Stars, which offers science programs, computer programs, drama and music, or to send them to theater camp. They preferred to go to the camp they go to every year, at Ardsley Community Center, where they play card games and make string bracelets with their friends, learn songs with all kinds of fancy hand movements, go on weekly field trips to amusement parks and walk about 2 miles to the community pool twice a week. They have a July 4 parade, a carnival, and even a Nickelodeon-style set of games where they all get slimed with green goo. They see their friends from preschool (who they don't go to school with and miss all year) and basically overdose all summer long on activity and fun.

When I was a kid, we didn't go to camp in the summer. We just hung out and went to the community pool, saw our friends, relaxed and had fun. It's not for everyone, but I want my kids to grow up feeling like having fun is just as important as achieving academic excellence. Our family believes in a balance of work and play - for everyone.

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