it’s time for america’s favorite game… fulfilling or not?!
the topic of tonight’s episode: parenting.
scenario 1: you go to your first day at a new job and after a long day of smiling at people whose names you already forget and trying to figure out a context to fit them into in your head, you head home. once home (a solid two hours later thanks to the traffic that you’re not complaining about but is definitely a part of your reality for the next couple of months), you shove a peanut butter and jelly sandwich down your throat, print the handouts for a training you’re doing tomorrow (for your old job) to your old office and then go borrow a key to go pick them up. drive to old office, pickup printed handouts, feel glad you brought your laptop because you had forgotten to print the consent forms, print the consent forms, drive to pickup son from father, drive back to former co-worker’s to return the key, drive home. realize once home that you left the laptop at the old office. explain to child that you screwed up, beg him to go pee even though he doesn’t have to, get him in his jammies, tell him what you’re going to do and tell him he’s going to go to sleep in the car (you hope). get in car. kid reminds you that you promised a snack. go back into house and get snack. drive back to borrow the key again, drive back to office, lug son out of car and into office, grab laptop, drive back to return the key… son is still awake (it’s 9:15… bedtime is at 8). son wants to know if you will read the shark book when you get home. “no. you’ll be asleep before we get home. do you want me to tell you a story now?” son says yes. you don’t really “do” stories… your imagination is not your most developed talent… but you’d do anything for this kid, so you tell a beautiful story about pirates and dragons and an island full of trees bearing anything you could dream of to eat where love is currency (you realize later that you totally stole that last part from someone you adore… maybe being around people with imagination is a good way to improve your own imagination). when the story is over son says, scowling in the rear view mirror, in a gravely voice “i want you to read a real story.” you sigh.
scenario 2: i actually don’t have a scenario to tell you about right now… but what I can tell you is that parenting becomes fulfilling for me when i see it as an opportunity to act out of pure love. and the best way i know how to do that is through empathy.
i don’t know if altruism really does exist (and i don’t care either) whether we do good because we want to do good or just because it feels good… good gets done. i am the best parent to spiderman and the best me to myself when i am using my powers of empathy and compassion to experience life from his point of view.
and when i’m here, i see that his point of view is very pure and beautiful. his communication with the world around him is pretty simple. it’s always one of a few things: pure emotional release, expression of a need, play, or exploration. can you imagine if you felt free enough to go through your day fitting every interaction you have with someone else or yourself into one of those four categories? AND… more importantly, you were surrounded by people who accepted, embraced, and encouraged that.
wouldn’t the world be a nice place to live in that case?
i recently “liked” Janet Lansbury on Facebook, and I get gems like this piece on empathy in my newsfeed daily. and I read them and I think “YES!” and then I think… how about we replace the words child and/or parent with person.
Let’s try it with the opening line:
“When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” – Haim Ginott
“When people feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When people are understood, their love for people is deepened. A person’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a person’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” – Haim Ginott
Ummmm… HELL yes! I know I can’t be the only one seeing this.
Check this piece, by Janet herself, out. Even though the word “wait” turns my stomach, the essence of the writing is that the Beatles had it right when they encouraged us to “let it be.” Imagine if we didn’t only encourage parents to love their children through empathy, patience, understanding, awareness of readiness, knowledge of capacity, etc. etc. etc. but we taught one another to love each other (and ourselves!) in the same ways.
Developing these stories in my head and turning them into reality in my life… and the opportunity to live with a boy whose daily interaction with the world is a model of such pure love and from whom I can learn so much about life are the elements that make parenting fulfilling (that’s the real scenario 2: totally fulfilling).