I am happy when my children are happy.

Sounds pretty simple right? Well, I would be fooling both myself and you to say this state of utopia is achieved easily and constantly in my life.

They say what you put in to life is what you get out of life. I reckon there is truth in that.

I have to work hard to get to a happy medium. The key to my happy medium is how I cope, adapt and get the best out of any given situation I am faced with. If I cope, it means I am happy and my well-being gets a boost.

The reality is I don’t have control over the every day ups and downs that punctuate an average 24 hours in the day.

Take school pick-ups is a good example.

My hope is always for a happy afternoon after school and smoothly run ‘screaming hour’.

Who doesn’t look forward to seeing their children at the end of the day and gets a burst of pleasure and love that comes from seeing them walk/run/saunter to you after you have not seen them all day? I know I do.

Reality check #1: the wee person(s) you have hung out to see can turn up at your feet after school in a variety of temperaments – unexpected anger, tears, joy, with a cursory or perfunctory ‘hello’ or if you are lucky – a kiss/hug before charging off with their friends to play or hang out. The resulting feeling can be deflating for any parent.

Reality check #2: parents (or guardians) have had no control over what happened in the school classroom or playground on any given day.

Skinned knees, accidental/deliberate pushing/shoving in the playground, teacher reprimands/praise/encouragement are all out of our parental control.

Luckily, if you look around at school pick up time there are other parents just like you. Looks of bewilderment in the (often) younger parents are commonplace at how their wee people’s friends have usurped you in importance. Looks of surprise at the bout of anger directed at you, which is not about you but results from an incident during the school day.

I have found an unwritten code in the schoolyard. Where once I had looked unkindly at the gaggle of parents huddled together chatting, I now recognise through my own experience the need for parents (and guardians) to cope as a collegial group at pick up time with our growing and developing children, which can alter day to day.

I have also learnt I have control over the state of me in responding to my children no matter how they present to me at the end of the day. No easy exercise.

I need to do battle with myself before being in a fit state to deal (sanely) with my children at pick up time.

Who hasn’t been faced with life’s signs saying ‘stop here’, ‘think’, ‘go to bed early’, ‘road works’, ‘friends in crisis’ ‘exercise’, ‘pets are sick’, ‘need new dinner idea’, ‘menstrual cycle blip’ at the same time as trying hard not to be irked by the partner/husband who once again forgot to lock the back door last night/put the rubbish out/let the pet out to wee/rsvp for a meeting/ring his (or her) parent(s), etc.

I try my best to prepare for whatever life throws my way. Making (manageable) lists, taking a walk, say ‘hi’ to someone, having a hobby, talking to your boss about altering your job so you be the best at your work, smiling to yourself, reading a book, listening to music, have a break, deep breathing, chatting to a friend/colleague. Basically anything boosting the good feelings in you so you can face life’s challenges and be in control of whatever comes your way has to be good for you and your family.

I find when I am (mostly) in control of me I am able to make the world around me a better place. Your family cannot know/understand the amount of things you need to juggle in a day – many of those we put onto ourselves – so when you see your children, make it count; even if it is for a split second before they run off with their friends.

Try making an uncontrollable situation that confronts you – the skinned knee (etc), into something positive and happy for your own sake. You will be astounded at how quickly your children(s) little irritations and hiccups are forgotten knowing their parent is happy, loving and welcoming of them.

Tolstoy’s Pierre Bezukhov in ‘War and Peace’ learns:

not with his intellect but with his whole being… that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfaction of simple human needs, and all unhappiness arises not from privation but from superfluity.

In plain speak this means a simple life can be a contented happy life.

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Rachel Binning is a full-time jack-of-all-trades who has an extensive background within the health sector. She now wholeheartedly agrees with ex US President, Bill Clinton that “the toughest job in the world isn’t being a president. It’s being a parent”. Rachel juggles being a mum of two active boys with her business, Bella Photography, volunteer work for many and varied organisations that support families, and contributes weekly to community newspapers throughout Wellington.

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