I've been thinking a lot recently about the difference between happiness and contentment. It all started when I read a wonderful post by a fellow mommy out there in cyberland. She talks in the post about how much she loves her kids and while she wants them to be successful in life, she doesn't make it her goal to make them happy in every way. She says this not because she doesn't want them to be happy, but because she doesn't want them to base their life and decisions on striving for total happiness in everything they do. That is a pretty unattainable goal in the world we live in, especially as a Christian. Being happy is hard especially when you are doing something that is uncomfortable or something that you aren't completely sure will have a good ending. Following God can be like that sometimes.
As I read this post and thought about my own son and my family, it really hit home. I hate hearing my son cry, but tears are sometimes neccessary for him to grow up to be a successful person. Our nighttime situation has been the most recent and glaring example of this in our house. We have been trying to help Carter learn how to put himself to bed at night. While we don't expect perfection from him and hate hearing him fuss (for what seems like an eternity) we know that we are doing what is best for our family. James and I can't be there every second of the night and day when he needs to be comforted and by learning to handle some of that on his own, we are helping him become a successful person. This is by now means fun or a happy time for anyone...but so neccessary and we feel it is what God has asked us to do.
As I sit here writing, Carter is crying. It breaks my heart every time because I know he is frustrated and wants nothing more than for me to come and hold him and help him fall asleep. Could I go in there right now...sure. Would I be helping him in the long run...nope! This is one of those things that I can't show him how to do or help him do, it is something he has to learn on his own. Of course I don't let him just cry and cry for hours, I go in every 15 minutes and check on him so he knows I am close by and still there for him while he is learning this new skill.
To bring me back to my original point, Carter isn't happy and James and I aren't happy to hear him cry. But we are content knowing we are doing what is best for Carter and for us. We are content knowing that this will pass, Carter will learn how to sleep, and we will tackle the next skill when it comes along.