My husband has a Happiness Book. I’m not sure which part of this charms me most: the fact that he thought to start such a thing, the fact that he spent some minutes getting out a piece of paper and making a little cover for it, or the image of him searching for little plastic holder thingys at work every time he adds a page. (Picture this guy with big biceps, carefully putting a tiny little piece of paper – maybe something with little blue clouds on it – into a three ring binder, then clipping the rings shut and staring at the drawing.) It all seems rather out of character for him as a man, yet completely in character as a dad.
The Happiness Book started about 8 years ago, when our eldest son was 7. Our son – like all children, I’m sure – would create lots of drawings: fingerprint characters, short stories he wrote, stick figures playing basketball, and lots and lots of dinosaurs. He’d tuck his little drawings into my husband’s drawer at home so my husband would be sure to see them when he left for his sheriff’s job at the courthouse. My husband dutifully brought each piece to work, but eventually the drawings came to cover too much uniform-locker space, and then too much bailiff-desk space. So my husband got a white binder from the supply room, made a simple cover, and started putting all the drawings in plastic pages. The Happiness Book was born.
The simple white binder stands about three inches thick now, stuffed to the brim with drawings, sketches, poems, short stories, Father’s Day cards, limericks, paintings, fingerprint art, crayon masterpieces and more – all done by our kids over the last 8 years. Whenever the kids go to visit Dad in the courthouse, they pull out The Happiness Book. It’s always made them as happy to see their work displayed as it’s made their dad to peek inside when he needs a quick pick-me-up.
My husband said that now, though, it makes him sort of sad. And when he brought it home to show us last weekend, I saw what he meant. I turned the pages slowly, stared at each of the drawings, and felt a little sad myself. I remembered the sound of The Torkelsons theme song when a five-year-old Ricky would draw Hippy the Hippo at the coffee table on a Saturday afternoon. I remembered the way a three-year-old Rene would push her hair back with her fingers when she’d bend over her drawing of princesses and castles. I remembered Nate coloring the legs of the dining table in bright green marker after he finished one of his grassy masterpieces. (That green pen is still on the underside of the dining table! I could only get so much of it wiped off.)
But the kids are getting older now, and they’re listening to iPods, not making fingerprint art at the coffee table. They spend their evenings studying for AP classes and English homework – they don’t have time to draw elaborate scenarios of dinosaurs or knights with the Green Meadow and Rusted Red Crayolas. They are going out with friends, listening to music in their rooms, and playing video games – not spreading their colored pencils across the dining table to select the just-right shade for their brother’s hair.
So right now The Happiness Book is making us a little sad. Maybe with a bit of distance it will bring happiness again. Maybe it only seems sad now because we’re just leaving the stage of last child being little, and we’re just not used to it yet. Maybe once we’re clearly into the “next phase” – with our feet firmly on the ground as a family of teens – it will bring joy again. Until then, The Happiness Book is a mixed bag – we’re thrilled we have it, but we can’t always look at it.
So tell me your experiences with this: Do you have something akin to The Happiness Book? Does it make you a little sad? Does the sadness go away?
Cherish your happiness book because when those teenagers drive you insane you can pull it out and remember why it is against the law to kill them~! I kept a picture of my oldest daughter as a baby out on my desk, so that when the snotty teenager emerged I could look down and get all mushy again.
To be truthful, though, in some ways I enjoyed the teenage years so much more and it sounds from the little I have read here that you will too. Little kids are adorable but teenagers are interesting. I was the mom that had every kid on the block in her house and let them build forts in the family room and leave them for days, so when they got older they still came around and I got to share a small part of their lives.
Yes, it is sad to know it is going, but one day you will be sad when the teenagers are gone and they hit their 20s. Yikes.
I love Chris’ Happiness Book! My kids are always drawing random pictures that say at the bottom, “I love you Dad” and folding them like 5 times into a small square and putting them in his drawer. When he finds it and loves it and says thank you, the kids always ask him to bring it to work. He needs a Happiness Book to put them all in!
Sometimes I don’t know what to do with all the artwork and schoolwork. No space for them all, but they are precious. I started scanning them and putting them into the computer. I hope I can make a photobook for them someday, all compact in one neat book.
Anyway, thanks, Chris, for such a sweet, endearing idea.
You’re welcome Grace, and thank you! I have to admit my book started out and continues to be a purely selfish endeavor. I just needed something to help me get thru the day. As we all know, most days are cool enough and then out of nowhere it gets crazy. This is like my insurance; something to make me happy on those days when I would sometimes think NOTHING could. Laurie and I often talk about how when we are having rough days at work (boss on your back, weirdo co-worker, assignments not going as well as we hoped, etc…) we power thru with the knowledge that we know we love each other and our kids love us. When we remind ourselves of that everything else is not that tragic. My book is just an extension of that. To be honest though, I almost never wait for those bad days; I use that book everyday-like my morning coffee or something.
The entries are becoming fewer these days but I am still greatful for anything the kids send my way.
And my title, “Happiness Book,” I just wanted it to be as pure and simple as the expressions of love from my kids.
I urge everyone to start their own “Happiness Book” because it makes everyday BEAUTIFUL!!!
Thank you Laurie!
Kat, thank you so much for this advice! I’m sure you’re right — that we will enjoy the teen years immensely — but I guess we’re sort of “in between” right now, with our youngest being 9, and it’s making me feel sad that the “little kid” years are falling behind me. But yes, our teens are extremely interesting! (No doubt our dinner conversation has improved dramatically over the last couple years!) So I do see what you’re saying: Enjoy each phase while you’re in it, eh?
Grace — Yes, it sounds like a Happiness Book might be perfect for your hubby, too. (I laughed at the image of the kids folding them 5 times into a small square!!! Why do kids all do that?!?!?) I like your idea of scanning artwork, too. Nice and compact.
Ah, Laurie, the sadness doesn’t go away….. I have enjoyed every phase of my daughter’s 21 years so far. I so cherish the years she looked at me with that little twinkle in her eye and she was so in awe of every little thing. Although, she now towers over me and is a beautiful young woman, I still see a chubby litle girl with pigtails and mischief in her eyes. She is exactly the woman I thought she would grow up to be, but just a little more refined – Ha! Ha! She will always be my baby!
I love the “Happiness Book” idea!
Chris, I have to admit you must be a remarkable father. I have heard it said that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother, so your children seem blessed already.
When your kids spin out into the world, I have a feeling for a long time that the both of you will be what draws them back, until they start families of their own. And just think what a wonderful example you have set for your grandchildren~! (Being a grandma is so much fun!)
Thanks for reminding me, too, of those hectic happy “young” years~!
M. (isn’t that a James Bond character? How exotic!) : ) — I know exactly what you mean about “still seeing” the small child in your older child! (I love how you described her.) I feel this way about my daughter especially — I still see her with super-chubby cheeks and her little dimples. But, like you, I look forward to watching her become the young woman I know she’ll be. Well put.
Kat — Yes, Chris is a remarkable father! : ) And what you said about being a grandmother is something that’s crossed my mind — by then (I assume) we won’t have as many of the time pressures and money worries we had as young parents, so I look forward to reliving (even less stressfully) a lot of those Saturday afternoons, watching the Disney Channel and coloring dinosaur pictures at the coffee table! Thanks for all your comforting sentiments today!
Awww, mom i love that Happiness Book too. I can remember were exactly i was when i was drawing all the pictures in there. Im not exactly a parent so excuse my inexperience but i hate to see you guys get sad over our “aging” so if i WERE a parent my advice would be to appreiceate ALL the little quirks that come with every stage of your kid’s lives because there are there are great things (and draw backs)that come with every part of them.
Nene, I appreciate your advice. I know you’re right, intellectually, but sometimes the nostalgia just comes on. I want to assure you that your mother and I love and the way you and your brothers are growing up, and we are greatful for the beautiful people that you are proving to be. I want you to know that your mother and love and adore you and your brothers and love every stage that you all have gone through.
Believe me we do.
I feel like the luckiest daddy in the world because I know I don’t deserve you guys and your mother, but I strive every day to be worthy!
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