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Archive for July 2nd, 2008

Yesterday, when I was dropping YD off at day care, an interesting little scenario played out.

I walked YD in and gave her a hug and a kiss – or tried to. Normally, she is very affectionate and even clingy, but when she gets in view of the other kids in her class, she pushes away and doesn’t want anyone to see her being hugged, kissed, or having her hand held. You know, like most kids. J

Yesterday, she shoved me away and stalked off as usual, but this time I went after her – it was shaping up to be a rough day and I wanted that hug! So she pushed me away again, and then smacked me on the hip, not hard, but very clearly wanting me to keep my distance. (It would have been very uncool, I guess, for her to actually say anything to me.) I stopped her and explained to her that not only was it not okay for her to hit me, it was also not in any way nice or loving to reject someone’s goodbye kiss because one is afraid someone will make fun. I told her that when someone is giving you a hug or a kiss and telling you they love you and to have a nice day, it is very hurtful when you reject them. I was very calm – I wasn’t actually upset about it because I know how kids’ minds work and I knew very well it wasn’t anything personal – but I did feel that I needed to take that opportunity to point out something important about respecting others’ feelings.

She was very thoughtful and I could see instant remorse as she considered the situation from my point of view. She’s at an age where she’s finally developing some real empathy, and sometimes that can prompt serious distress for her, of course. I wasn’t after a guilt trip or making her feel bad; I just wanted her to think about things before she does them. So I again gave her a hug and told her I loved her, and the rest of the daily litany. And she seemed okay.

But as I was walking out to the car, I thought, “Okay, that was a good learning opportunity.” Followed immediately by “But why does it seem like learning opportunities have to come with pain?” Because they always seem to, whether it’s your pain or someone else’s.

That reminded me of DH telling ED the other night that when he said something that hurt her, it was only because he couldn’t seem to get her attention any other way. She is at the age where sometimes it takes something a little unkind to get through the wall of disinterest and apathy and dislike of parental lecturing.

Is that the way it is for us? Are we cosmic teenagers? Does the universe have to smack us in the face to get our attention? Sometimes I think so. I know that I feel I am being sent messages all the time, and they escalate until I have to really stop and think about them. A good example is food…we eat badly for years and years, all the time ignoring the gentle messages we are being sent – maybe it’s a little heartburn, a couple of nights of having made ourselves literally sick with overindulgence, maybe it’s a little high blood pressure or some swelling from excess salt. But these are all little things and we have pills that will fix them, so we can afford to ignore them and go on doing what we’ve been doing. So then we realize one day that we are morbidly obese…but we still don’t do anything.  Or maybe we do it halfheartedly, knowing in advance that we’re going to fail and so not investing ourselves fully in the process. And then the heart attack comes, or the stroke, or the gallbladder attack… Why don’t we listen to the first, gentle warning? Why does it take an earthquake to move us?

Food isn’t the only area of course, I think this is true in all areas of our lives. Perhaps our problem is that we are selfish or careless of others’ feelings, but we don’t do anything about it until we’ve lost a job or a marriage or a close friend. Maybe we’re struggling with money issues but we don’t get a clue as we’re watching the account balance drop; instead we keep spending until we have a major crisis and we have to try to find a way out. Maybe it’s alcohol, or drugs, or reckless driving, or even sleep deprivation. Or maybe it’s something simple like leaving the virus-scan disabled because it slows down our connection, and not mending our ways when we have the adware popping up all over the place, but waiting until the whole system locks up.

I do believe that every day, in a million ways, the universe tries to tell us to change direction. I think the messages are generally simple, quiet, and easily ignored – that still, small voice, in Christian parlance – but I think that if ignored, they can become quite strident. If we don’t pay attention, the “Honey, wear your helmet please,” eventually becomes, “Young lady, if I catch you skateboarding without that helmet one more time, that skateboard is going to Goodwill!” And if we still ignore it – as we all too often do? Then we lose the skateboard. Because the universe would much rather have us angry and sulking and upset than lying on the ground with a concussion or worse.

Learning experiences hurt, but I think if we’re open to them and pay attention, we can minimize the pain. If we listen for the gentle messages, then maybe we don’t have to get to the really ugly ones. I’m not advocating paranoia – a flat tire is not a warning to stop driving! – but I am saying I think it’s very healthy to be aware. Be mindful of what the world is trying to tell you. It might save some pain down the road. Because we can always go out and buy another skateboard…but the concussion might not be as bad as it can get. It’s entirely conceivable that we can wind up – metaphorically speaking – with a broken neck. So it’s probably better to listen carefully, and put on the blasted helmet the first time we’re told. 🙂

That’s what passes for wisdom from me today. I hope that everyone has a wonderful, beautiful Wednesday!

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