Thoughtful Thursday: Happy

July 25, 2013

Thoughtful ThursdayClosing out the series of questions that I ask Burrito and Tamale about their preschool classmates…

So far, we’ve asked:
“Is she energetic or calm?”
“Is he loud or quiet?”
“Is she friendly or unfriendly?”

Finally, I like to ask, “Is he happy or sad?”

This question is even more relevant for preschoolers than it is for the rest of us.

There’s a girl in their class who, I’m not exaggerating, almost every time I’ve seen her — that is, daily for almost a year — has been crying. It’s not just that I see her at dropoff times, either: she’s cried whenever I’ve seen her randomly at other times of day, and she’s crying in almost all of the photos of the class activities. Best case scenario, she occasionally looks sad without crying. I have no idea what’s up with her.

There’s also a kid that we knew when Burrito and Tamale were babies to toddlers. She is the daughter of DH’s friend and is a few months older than B&T. I never saw her cry, but I also never saw her smile until she was 1 1/2. As an infant, she was what you’d charitably call “serious.” Her parents and brother are all extremely expressive people, so it was striking that this little girl expressed no positive emotion. She wasn’t actively sad, more just sort of perpetually disgruntled. About a month after Tamale started smiling, we spent time with the girl’s family. I genuinely felt bad when the mother remarked on Tamale’s constant, dazzling smile. It was as if things were okay as long as all babies were perpetually disgruntled, but when Tamale burst that illusion, the mother looked heartbroken.

Most kids, of course, are not as miserable as those two girls. Tamale is shockingly, startlingly happy. Huge, huge smile. Pure sunshine. Until she was 2 1/2, non-stop joy. Then, joy interspersed with age-appropriate dissatisfaction with her wishes being thwarted and, occasionally, tantrums. Even so, every kid in her preschool class would easily identify her as a very happy kid.

Happiness and sadness aren’t the only emotions, of course, as illustrated by Burrito. When he is happy, he is very very happy. When he is not happy, you might see anxiety or sadness or rage. He feels big feelings, in all directions.

I have a clear preference for happy children, but back in my days as a mopey teen, I expressed a preference for brooding, pseudo-depressive, black-wearing, poetry-writing, deep-thinker types. I got over that by 17, because seriously, it gets tiresome. Pollyannas get tiresome too. My real preference is for people who know the score but, despite the crappiness of the world, make a choice to be happy anyway.

Do you prefer to be around people who are happy or sad (or something else)?

10 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Happy”

  1. Mina Says:

    My first son is a clown, he would do anything to make you laugh, and he laughs along with you. He also cries easily, and has done that since he came into this world. My second son is pure joy, happiness on two chubby legs. He wakes up happy and laughing and I find it kind of depressing, because 6 o’clock the latest in the morning is not my hour of being happy and laughing. He laughs and giggles and smiles all the time, to people, animals, books and anything else that crosses his way. He cries only for a serious reason, and makes his big brother look like a spoilt brat. 🙂

    I prefer being with happy people, mostly because I had too many glum, morose, moody emo-like persons around me for too long. And life is too short to worry about everything and be depressed all the time. Being down is easy, being happy requires much more effort, and I appreciate people who make an effort. Of course, too much of anything is not good, so moderate happiness is what I am looking for to foster around me.

  2. St. Elsewhere Says:

    I would say that someone who lives in a constant state of sprouting rainbows would be as unrealistic and irritating to me as a person who is perpetually digging the abyss.

    I prefer realists. I prefer people whose happiness shines through when they are happy, and that they still have their feet on the ground.

    I have been around people who are fixed in a constant state of frustration, and I prefer to avoid them as much as I can.

    P.S. Figlia is a big-time smiler, and I love it.

  3. strongblonde Says:

    i will say that i prefer people who are genuine. i suppose i have a preference for happy people. it’s exhausting to be around people who are always negative! but i do want someone who is real. someone who is willing to let you see the good and bad. i know (i THINK i know) you’re not on fb, but i cannot stand the people who are always posting something awful (like B’s cousin) or something about how their life is the greatest. I just find it unbelievable that one person can be so much on one end of the spectrum. but i suppose that is when your personality or outlook comes into play, right? you don’t get a job? maybe it’s because something better is coming! OR it is because NO ONE likes you! 🙂

    my kids both seem pretty happy. m is very dramatic, however, she seems to really “enjoy” being worried about things. today she was worried about how she would get a band-aid on her nose *if* she were to pick at a scab and *if* it were to bleed. she perseverated over it for a LONG time. OR she will tell me that she’s worried about the big bad wolf…. then she will cuddle with us and say she’s better. until she finds something else to worry about! T lately has been SO affectionate, hugging and “french kissing” (one on each cheek) everyone. even randomly saying hello to strangers. it will be so fun to watch them grow up to see how this develops!

  4. Sara Says:

    My real preference is for people who know the score but, despite the crappiness of the world, make a choice to be happy anyway.

    Geez, I’m not sure what else to say now that you’ve said this. It pretty much sums everything up.

    I’d peg my husband and I mostly as “content”. “Happy” is too active a state of being for us to always be in it, but to not be in it doesn’t mean we’re unhappy, for the most part.

    Which is why it was so surprising to find out that we had a happy baby — one who really was in that active state of being, most of the time. As she’s gotten older, and she’s started asserting her will more, we have more tears and whining, but I’d still say her default is happy. During our epic trip a few weeks ago, we were walking from one airport gate to another, and she was cheerfully following me, getting distracted by carts! and windows! and airplanes! and puppies! and someone who past us commented that she seemed awfully happy. She heard him, and responded “happy, happy, happy”.

    I love it at that 20 months, “happy” is part of my daughter’s vocabulary.

  5. I’m learning a lot from this series and the reflection it triggers.

    Being around happy, content people is so much easier than being around mopers. But I’ll agree that I like happy with a dose of groundedness.

    I have been both at various stages. And I’d say my son = your daughter, and my daughter = your son in this measure.

  6. Elana Kahn Says:

    I need to be around happy people. I interviewed several people for a nanny job, and one of them felt so depressed, I really did not want her around me or my kids. I don’t need people bringing us down! I much prefer people who are upbeat and positive, smiling and happy. Of course everyone gets sad or angry at times, but someone who is constantly that way is not going to be someone I’m going to tolerate long. 🙂

  7. a Says:

    I don’t know about happy people or sad people. Like some of the others, I want to be around real people. I prefer the generally happy, because who wants to be around sad people? But I don’t mind serious people.

  8. Kristin Says:

    Like you, I prefer people who know the score but choose to be happy…or at least pursue happiness.

  9. Ana Says:

    What Lori, a, and Kristin said—I prefer the company of happy people, but don’t mind dealing with the inevitable downs of life in a person who overall is working on happiness. Those that choose to be miserable (yes I believe it IS a choice) long-term are too draining. One exception—those working with children need to bring the happy to work. I don’t want a sulky, moody sitter or daycare provider, young kids don’t need that level of “real”.

    My older son is…moody, melodramatic, prone to sulking and sadness. Younger one is mostly happy, but it may be an age/stage thing.

  10. Geochick Says:

    I like people who are generally happy but not over the top. At some point it gets fake. Baby X has been a happy go lucky kid for the most part and it sure does make it easier!

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