Category Archives: Inspiration
A memory from the years when my children were in their early teens: I went grocery shopping one morning, without my children, of course. We all know that teenagers would rather insert burning hot needles into their corneas than be caught in public with a parent.
I stopped by the breakfast cereal and debated whether to stick to high fibre, healthy stuff or submit to my son’s plea for Reese’s Puffs. As I stood contemplating these options, a young mother with a baby about ten months old in her cart turned the corner. I watched her approach. She wasn’t looking around at anything in the aisle. (No Reese’s Puffs for her!) Instead she bent forward over her baby and crooned to her with unadulterated, innocent, devoted mother love. I could tell that, in her eyes, her child was perfection itself, incapable of any wrongdoing.
I thought “She has yet to learn that her child is a human being.”
Well, actually, if I were a perfect person, I would have thought that, but I’m a complex, independent, imperfect human being, so what I actually thought was, “She still hasn’t learned that her child can be a little rotter.”
Don’t get me wrong. My children are fabulous, and they make me proud every day. But they’re human, so they are complex, independent and imperfect. They are learning, and they do that by making mistakes.
I still remember the exact moment I learned that my daughter wasn’t perfect, that she wasn’t going to instinctively sense all I wanted her to be and fulfill those expectations. She was three, and her baby brother had just learned to crawl. She didn’t bother much about him before he could move under his own steam, but the minute he crawled across our family room floor and picked up one of her toys, well now, that was a different story She sensed the threat to her domain. My daughter jumped up and began hiding toys out of the reach of her brother.
I watched, aghast. My perfect child was not perfect! She wasn’t instinctively and selflessly going to share everything? What?
My son also had issues with sharing, but his revolved around food. My daughter wasn’t big on sharing toys, but she did share food willingly and joyfully. With a big smile on her face, she offered up french fries or spoonfuls of ice cream without being asked. But my son? No, no, you never could take food away from him. If he sensed an invader, he wrapped his arm around his plate to protect it and shoveled food in before anyone else might get to it.
That day in the cereal aisle the jaded mother of teenagers who had witnessed her children succeed and fail in different ways wondered what that mother’s moment of revelation would be. What would that beautiful, perfect, imperfect baby girl do someday that would open her mother’s eyes to complexities and to the human capacity for meanness or selfishness? What would happen to make that woman realize how different her child was from herself?
Because that’s what the real challenge of motherhood is: Opening our eyes to the complexities and imperfections of our children and accepting them and loving them exactly as is.
Last week I wrote about a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. The facilitator asked everyone to consider the costs and benefits of saying “YES” and the costs and benefits of saying “NO.”
The group considered financial repercussions, the effect on personal relationships and the overall societal implications—the usual stuff. When listing the benefits of saying “NO” one group spoke up with: “If we say no, we won’t have to face our fears.”
People nodded. True. So true. The status quo—the comfort zone—is very appealing. The people in the room agreed that saying “NO” would, in many ways, make life a little easier.
But it only took a second or two before there was a reflective pause and a murmur. “Wait a minute,” the murmur said. “Not facing fears would also be a cost.”
We realized that not facing fears is an ingredient in recipes for stagnation, disappointment, dissatisfaction, guilt, depression, anger and lots of other unpleasant aspects of life.
It’s not the easy choice. It’s not the comfortable choice. But sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun, and it’s better than getting stuck between the cracks of life.
Yesterday I took part in a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. It is the kind of decision that touches people in a deep place, so we know that no matter what the result will create some uneasiness.
The facilitator for the group asked us to consider this: If we say “YES,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “YES,” what are the costs of that decision?
I have an opinion on the matter, so I knew that listing the benefits would be a breeze. Easy-peasy. No problem. But I thought I would struggle with pointing out the costs. I was wrong. I was surprised by how readily I was able to come up with both costs and benefits.
We were also asked to look at the situation from the “NO” side. If we say “NO,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “NO,” what are the costs of that decision?
Again, both costs and benefits came easily to mind. I didn’t have to dig around in the recesses of my mind to find them. I didn’t have to struggle with them or make something up. Both sides of the issue were ready for plucking off the surface of my brain once I chose to look for them.
I was surprised by how up close and personal my relationship with the other side of the issue was.
I realized that I had already, subconsciously or unconsciously, weighed the costs and benefits. I had arrived at an opinion having considered the costs but seeing the benefits as more important, on balance.
It made me wonder, how many people hold strong opinions on a matter without any awareness of how up close and personal they are, or have been, with the other side of the issue?