By Jennifer Richardson
A catalog came in the mail recently. It was for a well-known fashion brand and the full color photos depicted young, hip, beautiful people in various stages of living their perfect day. There were people having picnics and visiting the beach. There were people gathered in cheerful groups, hanging out with all the cool kids, and looking fabulous doing it.
Smiles were everywhere. Excepting the occasional angsty pout for the camera, all the models looked very blissful; no doubt their fashion choices were the catalyst for all that happiness.
Interesting what triggers a memory for me. The photos of smiling people in beautiful clothes took me right back to a conversation I had with my youngest when she was in seventh grade.
Bear in mind my youngest has always been interested in fashion, both for herself and for others. She was a pretty child who grew into a beautiful woman, and fashion just always made sense to her. She could help anyone find flattering clothing, and her friends and acquaintances lined up to receive her assistance with makeup for dances and formal events. She has been blessed with the talent of finding and accentuating beauty.
On that particular day in her junior high years, we were discussing fashion, specifically the fashions she liked and the new clothes she wanted, as well as the fact that I told her, no, I would not buy the clothing she had her heart set on.
After a long conversation about wants versus needs, and living on a budget, and the various reasons why I did not plan to increase her wardrobe any time soon she became frustrated and said, don’t you want me to be happy?
I asked her to elaborate on her question. She replied that she felt that most of her friends’ moms just wanted their daughters to be happy, so they supplied their children with the items they wanted. She went on to say that it felt that when everyone else received whatever was asked for, it made them happy. Therefore, when I said no to new apparel, it seemed that her happiness was not important.
Don’t you just want me to be a happy mom?
Her question was asked with such genuine sincerity and I seized upon the teachable moment.
I said, well, what you say is true, I don’t want you to just be happy. Just being happy falls significantly short of the life I hope for you. Happiness from a new thing is a feeling that evaporates quickly. In a few days you will want something else and the very happiness you thought you found will be gone. Your delight will forever depend on the next thing you desire.
Being told no, on the other hand, teaches you that you can endure without something new and therefore builds resilience. Working with what you already have develops creativity and ingenuity. Learning to delay gratification fosters patience and determination. If you practice these traits it won’t be long until you understand the incredible power of contentment and living a life bigger than self. Pretty soon people will be asking you how you can always be glad, and you will say my attitude is my decision and I choose joy no matter what I have.
Would you want to trade all of that for some new clothes?
I assured her we would make sure she had what she needed, and some of what she wanted, but we would never give her everything she asked for because people who get everything they want never learn how to grow up. She was young but her fledgling understanding increased that day. She still wanted the clothes, and many others through the years, but the seeds were planted.
One of life’s great blessings is watching your children have children. My youngest is now a mother of three and she has her own beautiful daughter. I overheard her say to my six-year-old granddaughter, no honey, you can’t have that, and it will be ok. I smiled as I listened to her explain to her little beauty that life turns out better when you do not get everything you want.
I was proud, and happy.