The Choice Life

Having fun is one thing, but life should be more about experiencing happiness and joy. Riding his bike, for example, makes Elijah Campbell radiant with joy, says his mother.

My kids, especially the boys, frequently say, "Please bless us to have fun" in their prayers.

I've always thought it was such a strange request, as my kids have never had a hard time finding fun without any kind of divine intervention. A while ago I realized why they must be asking this.

As I snuggled Ike before bed, I was talking to him about his day and asked if he had fun at school. Upon reflection I thought that it was a weird question, because that is not why I send him to school. The next day I realized that I asked him the same thing. Gasp! I must be asking my kids this a lot! I've really tried to weed this out of my routine, after all, I don't want them to believe that fun is the most important thing.

On Sunday night, as I was talking to Eli before bed, I asked him how things were going. His first response? You guessed it -- was to report on how much fun he had that day.

I'm guessing that they are really tuned into fun not just because they are kids, but because with all of the heartache and pain they have experienced, I want them to enjoy the lives that they fought so hard to keep, but it still irks me a little bit. Life isn't about fun, right? Life is about developing relationships, being responsible, helping others, doing your best, learning as much as you possibly can, and being kind. Thinking about this has really caused some cognitive dissonance because on the other hand, the gospel teaches us that "man are that they might have joy." Joy and fun don't necessarily overlap all the time. Fun seems more transient, and a little bit more indulgent than joy. Seeking out, and even praying for fun seems like we're missing the point. So what is a momma to do?

Often at dinner we take turns going around the table and sharing our thoughts on a particular topic. Sometimes I ask them what they did to serve someone, or if they witnessed anyone else being helpful or kind. The kids really love this, and I have always done it to try to get them to notice the positive, and to remember to do some good so that they have a good story to share. The answers are usually sweet, and sometimes rather funny. So now we focus more on finding joy through our relationships and experiences than just having fun.

I want my kids to be happy. But that is more than just having fun. Happy people feel good about reaching goals, being good at what they spend their day doing, and feeling like they are free to make choices. Happy people have rewarding relationships. They look for and find the good in their world. What I'm noticing about these factors is that they all require work and discipline. After all, you can only reach your goals if you work to make them and work to achieve them. To be good at what you do during the day requires that you practice and evaluate what you are doing.

Again, it has work written all over it. Being able to make your own choices also requires — that’s right -- work and discipline. The more good choices you make, the more freedom you have, and the converse is definitely true. Making poor decisions almost always limits your prospects and freedom. We know what will make us happy and bring joy, but we aren't as dedicated to actually doing the hard things that will yield happiness.

We had a family pow-wow a little while ago and talked about prayers. We talked about their purpose, who we are trying to communicate with, and some ideas for things to ask for. We went over some ideas of what to include in our prayers, and we try to always remember to ask for help to make good choices. We try to remember our gifts to the savior at Christmas and honor our commitments to do better and work harder. I’m trying to teach the kids that prayers are an excellent time to focus on gratitude and thinking about ways we can help those around us.

I'm all for fun, I just want it in the proper context. I don't want it to be the end goal, but something we experience as we cultivate happiness. Happiness and joy are deeper feelings and mean so much more.

It seems like if you spend time chasing fun, you will miss out on exactly the work that would make you happy. I don't know that we have to really pray for fun. I'm sure my silly kids will experience it no matter what.

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