Kelly Bastone: Entitled to my love |

Kelly Bastone: Entitled to my love

— A woman I once worked with made an observation that I’ve never forgotten: She said, “Why is it that men seem to think that what they have to offer is enough, while women almost never do?”

That imbalance had never occurred to me. But the more I mulled her maxim, the more true it seemed. I, for one, can list at least twenty of my shortcomings at any given moment.

I should be a better bike rider; I should earn more money; I should’ve been more understanding of my friend’s difficulties yesterday when she called; I should’ve been in town to attend the Mother’s Day tea at my daughter’s preschool.

My litany of “not good enoughs” goes on and on, but I don’t feel like most men get balled up in quite the same way.

Of course, men feel inadequate. But that’s not quite the same thing as constantly feeling like you should be giving more to every facet of your life — which, unfortunately, is the m.o. (method of operation) for lots of women I know. So I felt a palpable sense of relief by watching Jennifer Senior’s TED Talk.

Titled, “For parents, happiness is a very high bar,” the lecture discusses how kids used to have work to enrich their households (literally) but now, parents are the ones working to enrich the kids (socially, emotionally and educationally). Parents now aim to produce happy kids.

I realized: No wonder we feel we’re not getting the job done, because no one can.

Happy kids? Ha! It’s not that kids are unusually resistant to happiness, though it can seem that way sometimes when my preschooler has a meltdown about whether to go to the playground or ride her bike. “I want both! I can’t have both!” her brain computes, resulting in misery for all involved.

No, it’s just that happiness is elusive. Period. It’s hard enough to engineer happiness for ourselves, but it’s impossible to gift it to anyone else. I can’t make my daughter happy, Jennifer Senior reminded me. And whew! Did that reminder feel liberating! But just what do we owe our kids, now that filial devotion is out of vogue?

Senior promised her children she’d try to do them no harm, a sort of Hippocratic oath she made upon welcoming her firstborn. In my case, I think I’ll commit to loving my daughter. Simone, I don’t owe you trips to the carnival, banana splits, ski club membership, carbon-fiber bicycles, or a bigger yard. You are, however, entitled to my love. I hope you’ll feel it was enough.

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