Out with the Old:
Don’t we all naturally believe that the ideal family is one in which there is no fighting and all children are obedient and compliant and lovely and clean and nary is there a snotty nose or a temper tantrum? Isn’t it natural to assume that whenever there IS fighting or disobedience or a bad attitude or defiance or disrespect that something has gone terribly wrong?? That we are “off script” and therefore there must certainly be someone to blame?? We can end up blaming our kids by attaching negative labels (“You are SO disrespectful”), or ourselves by believing our own faulty character is behind it. Often, we blame both, even if only accidentally.
Not a fun way to live.
With this “Carnegie Hall” mindset, somehow, somewhere deep in our subconscious is the underlying belief that life is a performance with a full house of people in their tuxes and evening gowns just watching us, ready to think in their heads or worse, mention to their friends just what they think of us. What an embarrassment it would be to hit wrong notes…or lose our place…or trip over our feet!
This performance mindset about life can create a sense of worry and urgency; we feel the need to get a handle on things [our kids] and to get it NOW…if not yesterday….
But then, what if we find that controlling our kids isn’t working out as we planned?
Well, if it’s not, that’s a good thing to realize because if we’re not careful, those negative feelings and labels can stretch out and deepen, like an underground life-sustaining root system.
But there is hope! Always hope.
I ask you to consider: might thinking this way be a little like expecting a person to begin a gym membership with already bulging, fully developed muscle….or to play the violin right from the start with perfect pitch and form, not a squeak or a squawk?
(Incidentally, the squeaks and squawks that grate our nerves and make us stand up straight are not an issue of character and we know it. Therefore, how much easier patience is to come by! There is a lesson in this!)
If you relate to this hurried, worried way of attempting to influence children that I’m describing, I want to see if I can talk you into changing your expectations as a parent, to change your whole definition of success. (You can do that, you know. )
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James
In with the New!
What if we thought of life and growth and parenting less like an unnerving performance and more like the working of a puzzle. Though there is much to be done to complete a puzzle, puzzles don’t stress us out. We are content to work on them here and there, twist pieces this way and that, scan for colors, take breaks if we want, and work on them deep into the night if we’re feeling adventurous. If we get some pieces in the wrong places, it doesn’t throw us off our groove; we know we can make adjustments as the need arises. If others help us put pieces into our puzzle, we are not threatened or defensive (unless it’s the final piece, of course!); normally we’re glad for the help and the company.
Another thing: as we pass by the puzzle throughout our day we tend to be nothing but pleased seeing it slowly take shape, rather than critical of what’s left to finish.
Buddha said it this way: “There is much to be done; therefore we must proceed slowly.”
I think Buddha got it right. I’ve tried it both ways and I’ve found that adopting his paradigm provides for a much happier day-to-day existence. Slow and steady, yet very gentle pressure, always proceeding but never in a rush, lotsa spice and lotsa flavor (i.e. finding out what your kids REALLY think) and lots of simmering—this is a good recipe for a delightful gourmet dish, wouldn’t you say?
You know, the little turtle didn’t get much notoriety for being so slow and I imagine he got criticized along the way, but wherever he is right now, he’s probably still a walkin’, headin’ to the sea….