“What right have you got to be happy, anyway?”

I felt like I’d been struck by lightening; my whole body froze.  I could feel my teeth clench together as my jaw clamped shut.  I could not utter another word.

I had dared to confide my teenage angst in someone who should have known better than to shame and belittle me.  I had dipped my toe into a pool of hope only to have my leg snapped at by a creeping sea monster.  I learnt a valuable lesson on that day, all those years ago: a problem shared was a problem shamed.

With this in mind, it isn’t exactly surprising to hear that my personal walls were once built of bricks; nothing and nobody could huff and puff and blow them all down.

But becoming a mother has changed me, and I’m not just talking about my body.  Becoming a mother has made me look at myself through the eyes of my daughter...because she is my mirror in so many ways.  It hasn’t been easy to take those first glances, but by doing so, I’ve been gifted an opportunity.

The opportunity to stop the cycle.  To change things; to change myself.

When I look at little bean, I see nothing but deserved happiness.  If there is one right that all children are born into this world with, it is the right to be happy.  Because happiness is subjective and is not dependent upon location, privilege or status.  Happiness is pure and true; it is the waves of the ocean and the soft glimmer of the moon.  More than this, happiness is connection.

As humans, we are defined by our connection to one another; by our communication.  Our babies are born intrinsically connected to us; the smell of our skin, the taste of our milk, the sight of our eyes, the sound of our voice and the touch of our hand.  Happiness can be found in all of these experiences, without expectation or apology...because that is the magic of natural connection; it is pure and it is unashamed.

Of course, as our baby beans grow into bigger beans, the simple intensity of those early days and weeks starts to morph into something rather more complex.    The sound of our voice is no longer sufficient to trigger true happiness...because our children are now listening to and understanding our words.  More than this, our children are interpreting them.  Because to an adult in the midst of a busy schedule with too many commitments, a simple sentence uttered against the clock is unlikely to be remembered...yet to the child who is listening and interpreting, these same words could leave an imprint so deep that they shape the years to come.

“What right have you got to be happy, anyway?”

These words hit me like a dead weight falling from the sky.  They hit me fast and they hit me hard.  They knocked the air out of my chest and left me dumbstruck.  I had no answer in that moment.  I had no breath to cry out with for support.  I was alone.

Now that I am a mother and I have seen my own reflection in little bean, I feel ready to address this question.  Now that my mind has softened, much like my belly, I feel safe in confronting this truth.  Let me spell it out…

I have every right to be happy.

You have every right to be happy.

We all have every right to be happy.

This does not mean that we will actually live this ideal, day in and day out; unhappiness will hit us in waves throughout our lives.  Sometimes it will creep slowly, inching up the shore, whilst at other moments, it will knock us down with one clean blow.  There will be times when we feel as if we are drowning in grief.  There will be times when it feels like the ground has been swept from beneath us and we are treading water; times when it feels like we are sinking…

But we have a right, an indefinite right.  We have the right to reach out for support.  We have the right not to be alone; to connect.  We have the right to happiness.

And in that simple right, there lies hope.  Hope will lift us when we fall, or when we are pushed.  Hope will give us the strength to love again, to trust.  Little bean, I hope that you never question your absolute and undisputed right to be happy.  Little one, I hope with all of my heart that you feel deserving of happiness; because I can assure you that you are worth it.  Baby girl, I hope that when you are down, you will reach out your hand to me; because I am here.  I am here.

Happiness; it will come and go, rise and fall.  But it is ours to chase; our birthright to enjoy.

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(Mama Bean also published this piece as a guest post for Evolutionary Parenting; thanks again to EP for inviting me to write for you!)