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Friday, December 26, 2008

Stress Free

Yesterday in my Christmas stocking I found a note from my nine-year-old son promising “a stress free day” as a gift to be redeemed sometime in the coming year. I was really enjoying this promise until my twelve-year-old woke up and proceeded to explain to her brother that “a stress free day” was really more than he could promise. There might be things that happen during my day that he really had no control over. In fact, she pointed out, he hardly had control over himself, let alone my state of mind. All he could really promise was that for one day he would try not to stress me out, which was frankly all I was expecting. (Does this girl know The Wisdom to Know the Difference or what?)

I’m glad my daughter has figured out that we can’t be responsible for someone else’s feelings. It’s a hard lesson and one I am remembering myself this morning as the nine-year-old is questioning if the gifts he got (which were exactly what he asked for) were really what he wanted. I’m remembering Tamar Chansky’s book Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking and the importance of helping children learn resiliency by working out their own issues instead of rushing in to solve them. (“Is it too late to return that game?” I fleetingly ask myself.) Rationally I know that in the long run learning that no game can make him happy will help my son more than returning the one that seems a bit too hard this morning, but the temptation to fix the immediate challenge is still there. It might be different if I thought there was something wrong with the game. The problem, I think, is that the game is different from what my son expected, so shifting his expectations would solve the problem more easily than returning the game, though that doesn’t seem easy to him—or to most of us, I dare say. As the Buddhists point out, letting go of our preconceived notions can take a lifetime, or several.

It reminds me that letting go of expectations is something I still have to work on, too. I have many expectations for 2009, I realize, which might be unfair to that poor little year. I should unwrap the future with an open mind, ready to accept whatever gifts come from it. That attitude would probably help me to live closer to “stress free” every day, so my children don’t think that my stress is their fault or something they can fix. It would also help me to give them a better example, which is probably the best gift I can give them in the end.


Blogger Cotteridge said...

Aren't 9 year old sons just darling! I read your post and just kept saying, "bless him. Oh, bless him." Your daughter sounds very wise and I hope you get your day.

8:58 AM  

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