We created The Happy Family Movement to encourage and inspire family togetherness through simple ideas for happy family living and memorable family experiences. And now that we’re rounding out our second year of doing this, we’ve realized that it encompasses so much more. It’s about reminding us all that we can be the awesome parents that we want to be, against all odds, but we have to be intentional about it.
You need to know the WHY behind the Happy Family Movement so you can fully understand why this is so important to us.
My parents met when they were teenagers. They spent their youth experimenting with drugs (it was the late sixties/early seventies, so I guess that’s what teenagers did back then). When they were in their twenties, they got married, but the drugs continued. They decided to have a baby, but Surprise! they ended up with twins instead.
I’m not sure exactly why their marriage fell apart, but I’m certain it was a combination of money problems, the stress of raising two kids, and, well, the drugs probably didn’t help either. Either way, they divorced when my brother Rob and I were toddlers. My dad refused to pay child support, so she refused to let us see him.
When I was five-ish, my mom met someone, and we moved to Las Vegas. My little brother Kerry was born soon after. Things didn’t work out with my mom and Kerry’s dad, and before you know it, we were living in a trashy trailer park. Her next boyfriend was a screamer and a hitter. It wasn’t long before she started screaming and hitting too.
From what I’ve been told, my mom became more addicted and, this time, to worse drugs. To pay for her habit, she sold drugs out of our home.
I have very few memories of our three years in Vegas, but the one that stands out the most is the day she took Rob and I out for ice cream and told us that our dad had died. He had been in a terrible car accident, had third-degree burns on ninety percent of his body, and only lived two days after that.
I don’t remember crying or even feeling sad. I have exactly zero memories of my dad, and at eight years old, I’m not even sure I understood death. I still carry guilt for my reaction that day. As an adult, I just feel sad and angry that he was alive for eight years of my life, yet I didn’t get to have him in my life.
Not too long after my dad died, my grandmother (my mom’s mom) brought all four of us back to Kansas City. We moved into an old house in Grandview. My brothers and I started school, and things seemed like they might be okay.
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if she continued the drug use or not. I think my mind sheltered me from that. But I can tell you, either way, the years of drug use changed her in such a way that she was not able to be a good mother.
Once we moved back to Kansas City, she never got a job. We lived on every form of government handout there is. You would think that having your mom at home all the time would be great. It could have been, but she didn’t DO anything. She never played with us. She didn’t clean; she barely cooked. When we would get home from school, she would be so engrossed in reading a book that we wouldn’t even get a “how was your day?”
There was a time when she watched kids at the house to make some extra cash. The truth is, I watched those kids. And some mornings, when the kids would show up at 6:00 a.m., she would still be at the pool hall. She would wait until we were asleep and then go out all night. Most nights, she made it back before we woke up, but it didn’t happen every time.
As I got older, I tried desperately to do anything I could to win my mom’s approval. I got straight As, was captain of the cheerleading squad, played varsity soccer, student council, senior class treasurer, national honor society…it didn’t matter.
There was nothing I could do that was good enough.
When I was a teenager, I became defiant. I was angry. I was such a good kid, but she just couldn’t see that. She called me names no child should ever hear their mother say. She abused me, physically and emotionally. She manipulated me. She stole money from me.
And the thing that hurts the most, to this day, is that she didn’t love me. She didn’t love me the way that a mom should. I didn’t understand that as a child. As an adult, it’s still hard to understand. But I realize that doing hard drugs changes people. It changed her emotionally, and she wasn’t able to love. I’m still working on forgiving her for that.
To her credit, I’m certain that she loved me. And I know that she did the best she could, but she was unable to show her love. She said the words, but her actions said something entirely different.
But you see, I wanted that SO badly as a kid. I just wanted to feel loved. And as a mom, I want nothing more than for my own children to know EVERY SINGLE DAY that I love them. And I tell them, with my words and with my actions.
I used to think that our goal with the Happy Family Movement was to encourage and inspire family togetherness. But now I know that’s just one part of it.
Because the truth is, no matter what issues you carry from your own childhood, I’m here to tell you that you can break the cycle.
You can choose to parent in a way that fosters a strong relationship between you and your kids, regardless of whether you have a great relationship with your own parents or not.
Every day, I still fight the feelings of being unworthy of love. I still struggle with feeling like I’m good enough. But I keep fighting, for my kids’ sake. And for the future generations of the Solar family. I still struggle every day with the emotional scars of my childhood, but everyday, I wake up, and I make the choice to parent with love and joy. And you can too. Together, we’ll rewrite the way our generation views parenting. And together, we will change the world, one happy family at a time.
Josh and Jenny Solar created The Happy Family Movement to encourage family togetherness and memorable family experiences through simple ideas for happy family living. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter.