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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Character and Happiness

God, as I understand the concept today, lives at the reservoir.

We have a reservoir down the road where I can run or walk the 3 mile trail, away from traffic and the gargantuan hills of our neighborhood.

And as soon as I start wondering if I'm crazy, or whether I'm wrong, or just who the hell do I think I AM, there is some power -- and here I'm calling it God -- that puts the right person in front of me on the trail.

It's happened three times in the last two weeks that, as I'm furrowing my forehead and getting dark in my thoughts, I hear someone call out my name. It's been three different friends, from three different parts of my life -- and it seemed to me to be the perfect person at that moment.

Today was the third incident, when I saw my friend M.. 

When I related my fears to M. regarding Chebbles' mind-numbing lessons at school, she gave me the precise right word to describe why it's important for children to be challenged, to face failure, to have to struggle a little through their academic lives -- "It's a matter of character," she said.

And that's exactly it. That's what we're going for.

I believe that without a properly developed character, a person cannot be happy. I first heard of this concept from Dr. Christine Carter, and I love the theories she espouses in Raising Happiness. Her newsletter is here.

Without having to WORK for adulation, and struggle for the prizes they receive, children eventually become depressed, waiting for gold stars to be lavished upon them for... nothing. 

Ask anyone who is in a position to hire kids in their early 20's -- there are vast numbers of these people cropping up, looking for jobs with an undeserved entitled air to them.

And that's another way to sum up my frustration with Chebbles' education. Right now she's enjoying a rip-roarin' time at recess with a bunch of chums. Then she just goes inside and aces a few worksheets, gets praise, then sits at her desk waiting for the fun ride home on the school bus -- so she can come home and read things that actually interest her.

This is a girl who, at dinner last night, said, "Mom, you're 40, and I'm 6, so that means you were 34 when I was born!"

(To be honest, I usually need a pen for that kind of calculation.) 

And at school she's being told to answer "6 - 2" and "6 - 4" again, and again, and again in her class. She is not allowed to take on more challenging work for fear that other parents will be offended that their children were not selected for the more challenging work, as I understand it.

So I needed M. to tell me the word I've been searching for -- I'm no expert, but I'm willing to guess that long-term life happiness is directly connected to being a person of good character -- happiness is related to surmounting challenge. Sure, we can have a nice, good time playing on the flat surfaces of life -- but the lasting joy comes from the vistas -- and we can't find a vista if we don't climb a mountain.

I feel like my child's mountain climbing gear is muddied from our homeschooling lessons and adventures, but now it's just sitting in the corner of the schoolroom while she waits for everyone else to learn to walk.

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