Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wise Words

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can--there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.
Sarah Caldwell

I am grateful when I read something that clicks, that makes sense, that changes me a little.

I am a magazine junkie.  I just love magazines.  When I was in college, my roommate Jamee said if she was wealthy she would buy every magazine there was.  I had to agree.  In high school, I was devoted to Seventeen Magazine, as a new mother, I inhaled Parents Magazine.  Now I read several different magazines with varied levels of interest and loyalty.  Sometimes I read things that entertain me.  Sometimes I read things that irritate me or bore me.  Sometimes I read things that speak to me.

That's what happened recently.  I was reading Ladies' Home Journal (which I'm usually not crazy about, I just got a subscription for $5 so why not?).  I read an article called "Smotherly Love" by Michelle Blake.  It stopped me in my tracks.

She wrote about her experiences as a mother.  She said, "I realized my daughter was a complete person, separate from me.  It was as if I'd turned on the kitchen light in the middle of the night and discovered that the forks and knives were dancing."

She wrote that she always acted like she believed they were separate people, "But somewhere deep inside my overfunctioning maternal instincts there lurked a notion that I, and I alone, had to get them through...anything major, anything that might make them unhappy.  I felt responsible for every aspect of their lives, but above all I felt responsible for their happiness."

When I read that, I knew she was talking to me.  Every brain cell was sitting up and paying attention.  I needed this article!!!

I read on.

"This is a tricky business, as every parent knows.  When our children are little we have enormous power...We sing to them, get them into dry diapers, show up at the door, make a face, blow a bubble.  We are the great and powerful Oz.  As their needs get more complicated, however, so does their happiness.  And though trying to keep an infant fed and dry and smiling and more or less happy is a more or less reasonable goal, trying to keep a 7-year-old happy, let alone a 12-year-old, is not.  It's not even a good idea...."

"...The truth was that seeing my children unhappy made me unhappy.  And I didn't like I lost touch with one of the best gifts a mother has to give:  perspective.  I...knew that not being the teacher's pet or not having a starring role in the class play was small potatoes in the big picture, but too often I forgot those insights...Too often they got the message that the fleeting unhappiness brought on by disappointment of any kind constituted an intolerable burden--for them and for me...As my children started taking tests and getting grades...and the stakes got higher...I realized something had to change.  Since the world didn't step up and volunteer to alter itself, changing had to be an inside job."

For the author, meditation was the answer.  It helped her learn that happiness was already available and could be found through relaxation.  I think the same is true for me.  I may not be into meditation but I need to relax a little!  I don't mean relaxing in my comfy chair with a book (although that sounds nice).  For me, if I can remember the wisdom of Michelle Blake, I will just need to relax when things aren't perfect.  (Which is all the time because things are never perfect.)

For example, the other day, after reading this article, I found a homework assignment Braeden had forgotten to take to school.  A less enlightened me would have started in a tailspin.  He forgot his homework.  He's not responsible.  This is going to affect his grade.  This is going to prevent him from getting into college.  He won't be able to find a good job without a college education.  He might resort to a life of crime in the face of unemployment.  He will end up in the state penitentiary.  He doesn't even like to wear bright orange jumpsuits...

An exaggeration but you see what I mean.

With the new thinking in my mind from reading this article, I thought, "Hmm.  Braeden forgot his assignment."  It's not my assignment.  It's not my problem.  I don't think it will change how I parent so much on the outside.  If I'd seen the assignment before Braeden left I would have reminded him to take it.  The change is on the inside.  I am not in charge of my children's happiness.  They are going to have to forget assignments and have heartbreak and probably lose things that matter a lot to them.

Because that's life.

Parting words from Michelle Blake:

"Instead of continuing to hammer home the message that pain and failure are unbearable and must be avoided at any cost, I tried to communicate the lesson that...if you aspire to anything other than sitting in your room playing video games, pain and failure are inevitable.  The goal is not to avoid them but to learn how to take them in stride."

True.  And thank you Michelle Blake.  I think my children thank you too.


Jill said...

Wise words, indeed. I tend to be a perfectionist and this extends to my children's lives. This was a great reminder that although life can be hard at times, it's something that they need to experience to grow just as I do.

Olivia Cobian said...

Braeden may not like wearing bright orange jumpsuits, but he would look very handsome in one.


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