Acceptance is everything. To be clear, I'm talking about accepting things we cannot change. And yes, some times things we cannot change are the result of previous choices and decisions, but other times there is nothing we could have done or can do about what is.
I tend to argue with reality. Last week our car had to go into the shop because it wasn't starting up easily. This car has over 100,000 miles on it so repairs are to be expected. We've been using the same repair place for years, though they recently closed the shop near us so we have to drive an extra 15 minutes to get there, and they've never been extremely quick on getting repairs done, but they have always treated us well and we trust them. Instead of accepting all of that and getting on with life I fight what is. I spend energy grumbling about how long they are taking, that Jess has to drive the even older van that guzzles gas for work (which involves a lot of driving), that they are so far away, and before you know it I'm completely frustrated with something that just is.
When I don't argue with what is everyone has a much more relaxed and positive experience. When I do argue with the things I can't change it stresses us all out. Now I'm not saying that we can or should go through life without the occasional freak out, but some times we get in a mental rut of freaking out or denial or arguing with things that we cannot change. We have a choice in how we respond. Sometimes we need to practice a better response pattern.
Moving on to parenting...
When we decide to have children, or get pregnant, there is a fantasy created in our minds. We picture life as a parent with a child and we think we know how it will be. We think we know and yet we have no idea who that child will be. We don't even know what kind of parent we will be, even though we may be sure that we really do. We give birth or adopt these wonderful people who are who they are and we need to love and accept them unconditionally. That can be fairly easy if our fantasy child is a close match to our reality child. However, some of us have really great imaginations and we dream up a child who is completely different from the one who comes to live in our home and our hearts.
When our oldest daughter was born the WNBA was just starting up and we talked about how she could grow up to be a basketball player. When Tasha was 6, she had a friend signing up for Pee Wee Basketball and we were happy to sign Tasha up, too. Our daughter did great! She wasn't sure she liked it at first but she kept going. She was positive and participated in all the drills and scrimmages. And she never made a basket. Not one. Now, if you know this particular child you will also know that competitive sports are not her thing. And if you know her father, you know he loves basketball. As parents we could have pushed her and Jess could have gone out and shot baskets with her by the hour until she made one. We could have challenged her to try harder. Fortunately we didn't. She came out of it feeling positive about herself and not liking or hating basketball much more or less than when she started.
Often, what causes the conflict is our expectations. We expect our child to like the pancakes we made for breakfast. When they don't we are frustrated, but our child has done nothing wrong. They have given us information about their preferences, "I don't like these pancakes." That's great because we can learn more about who they are and what they like so that we will be better able to meet their needs and support them as a person. However, we are more likely to take personally. "How can you not like these pancakes?? I made them for you!" And it is personal, because the expectations were ours. How much more informative if we can instead ask,"What is it you don't like about the pancakes?" How much more loving to ask, "What would you like to eat instead?"
Some times it's not as simple as pancakes. Our child doesn't look the way we expected. Our child experiences life from a perspective different from our own. He likes to stay home a lot, you like to go out and do things. She likes to be loud and you like quiet. You like to go to bed early, he likes to stay up late and have a bedtime story right before going to sleep. Some times it's even larger and you find that your child has been born facing challenges you could never have imagined and your world is turned upside down.
Parenting is a journey. There may be people who were born with the perfect combination of temperament and abilities that make the parenting journey a walk in the park on a sunny day. Personally, I think that's a myth. We all have areas where we need to put in the effort and learn and grow and become the better parent that our child needs us to be. For me one of those areas is getting past fighting, and getting to accepting, what is.
When it's 11:00 p.m. spending 15 minutes reading a book to my kid isn't going to make that much difference on my sleep deprivation. On the other hand, it means a whole lot to the girl who wants to reconnect with mom for a few peaceful moments at the end of a busy day. My ability to accept what is determines if we have those peaceful moments or if I'm just going through the motions so I can get to bed. My child can feel the difference.
When we accept our children as they are, instead of fighting what is and clinging to our expectations of who our child should be, they feel loved and accepted and understood. With this love and acceptance our children are free to blossom into the people they are. Without this love and acceptance our children will be trapped into denying who they are to please their parents or into rebelling against those expectations. If we cannot get past fighting what is, and to a place of acceptance, we are creating conflict not only in our lives but also in our relationships with our children.
The acceptance of life, our selves and our children as is, in this moment, will bring us to a place of peace. Some moments I manage to accept everything, some moments I find myself fighting what is, but accepting that is part of the journey.