Friday, April 9, 2010

What to Expect When You're Expecting

When I was pregnant with my first child I read a book called "What to Expect When You're Expecting".  The book helped assuage my fears and also instilled a sense of confidence in me.  I felt secure, knowing that if I turned to the book with questions about my pregnancy I would find the answer.  The follow up book, "What to Expect The First Year" provided insights about my developing baby.  In fact I was able to find many books to help explain my child(rens) behaviors as they grew and developed.  Given my background in Early Childhood Education and Psychology and the plethora of reading materials available to me (not to mention the advice of my parents), I felt assured that I would be able to face anything that might come my way as I was raising my daughters.

That all changed when my daughters reached puberty and the teen years loomed ahead of us with uncharted waters and few books to support my questions and concerns.  I kept looking for a book called "What to Expect When What You're Expecting Isn't What You Expected".  There isn't one, in case you're wondering.  The teen years can be wonderful for some parents and not so wonderful for others.  I've learned that you can neither punish yourself nor pat yourself on the back for much of what occurs.  I have been shocked, surprised (in both good and not so good ways), proud, disappointed, scared, angry, joyful and often bewildered.  Nothing and I mean nothing could have prepared me for what was going to happen over the course of my daughter(s) teen years.  If I had known I'm not quite sure what I would or could have done to change things.

The experience of my children(s) adolescence has taught me many things but I am not an expert.  I know now the reason there is no book that can truly assist you in helping your child(ren) navigate the uncharted territory of the teen years.  It's a trip that everyone must experience as an individual.  
There is no book that will help you through the roller coaster of adolescence but the words of Kahlil Gibran have provided me comfort and an understanding of my role as a parent:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I now know that what I should have been expecting all along was to be humbled by what I didn't know, what I never could have expected and what I may never understand.  I know that I can only provide stability upon which my daughters can rely and return to when they need.  I know that I cannot make them bend to my will but only hope they will seek my guidance.  Now I know that I should expect the best but prepare for....anything.

Monday, January 4, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

...But if you try sometimes, well you just might find you get what you need."  Rolling Stones

I am reading the book "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert right now.  It's so enjoyable and interesting and she is so open and honest that you feel more like you are having a conversation with her than reading a book.  There are some great lines in the book and wonderful insights that I find myself reading them again and sharing them with others so that I can continue to enjoy these little epiphanies.  The most recent little gem was some advice she received from a woman who was nearly 100 years old. 

She told Elizabeth that the only two things that cause conflict between people throughout all of history are "How much do you love me?" and "Who's in charge?".   If you really think about it, this woman is right she is absolutely right.  Think about the last argument, disagreement, hurt feelings, anxiety, etc. that you felt about another person.  Ultimately, it will come down to "how much do they love you" or "which one of you is in charge".  This never-ending power struggle consumes us, literally. 

How many arguments, have at their root, the idea that if this person really loved you they would just (fill in the blank - do what you want them to do in the way you want, agree with you, do what you want without asking, stop bothering you, be more....) OR how many arguments are really about which one of you is in charge here.  Someone has to be in charge (although I'm sure there are many people who believe, as faulty as this idea is, that things can be equal) there is no such thing as fair or equal.  Someone has to do more of the work, someone has to direct what is going on, someone has to plan things so that it all happens.  It is such a fine line we walk when we are negotiating this particular part of human interaction. 
As human beings we are obsessed with these two ideas and we struggle, and fight with ourselves and eachother over these two principle questions. 

I realize that now that I am aware of this idea I will never be able to look at myself or my interactions with others the same.  I will be reminding myself that I can either continue to allow my ego to worry about how much I am loved by this person (or liked) and/or which one of us in charge OR I can focus my energies on letting go and on accepting that I will never really know the answer to those questions within my relationships.  Imagine the possibilities...I will just "be" in the relationship or "accept" the relationship as it is and stop worrying and wondering if those questions will be answered.

You can't always get what you want.  Frankly most of the time I don't really think we know what we want or what to do with it if we actually "got" it.  We underestimate how much work "getting what we want" really is and we can't accept that even if we do get what we want that we can actually keep it.  Maybe if we just allow things to happen and unfold the way that they are meant to, we will get what we need.