Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 47: The Student Becomes the Teacher

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

...Again. Someday I'll have to thank Jackson for raising me.

For the fourth week in a row, I watched as Jackson enjoyed pumpkin seeds and nuts during snack time at school while all the other kids at the table ate crackers and craisins. No fussing, no complaints, not even a request. He loves craisins and the few crackers he's had have been a pretty big hit, so it's not that the desire isn't there. He's simply satisfied with what he's given.

Now let me be clear, this is a God-given quality, not something I take credit for. We've certainly instilled nutritional values and respect, but that kind of contentment is simply a gift. He doesn't look around to find out what he's missing, he looks at what he does have and feels good about it. Obviously this comes from his glass-half-full father (hence the project, right?).

When other parents talk about the horror of taking their children down the toy aisle at Target, I can't relate. Jackson wants to look at all the cool stuff, then happily goes home empty handed. At the grocery store, he loves going down the cereal aisle to see the leprechaun on the Lucky Charms box, but he's never once asked to take it off the shelf. Although to be fair, he probably has no idea there's even anything in the box.

He doesn't throw a fit when we don't have time to hit the mall play area after shopping, he almost always takes it in stride when I have to work from home instead of giving him my full attention, and he even waits patiently for his turn when Max needs to nurse before him at nap time. He pretty much lives in a perpetual state of contentment.

I've always considered myself to be pretty content. But then my measure was always materialistic. It's true I don't need a flashy car, a huge home, or an expensive wardrobe to feel satisfied. And although I'd probably kill a man for an attached garage, packing my kids into the snow-covered car on the street is just part of life, not something that gets under my skin every day. By this one-dimensional standard, I guess I am pretty content.

But when it really comes down to it, I'm not content at all. Contentment doesn't leave room for resistance. It doesn't allow for control issues. It doesn't place conditions on happiness.

If, like Jackson, I lived in perpetual contentment, my circumstances wouldn't dictate my feelings or my behavior. But I live in a conditional world, one that requires things to go my way for me to feel good. What I long for, and what I see in my son, is a life that is unconditional. His contentment and happiness don't hinge on whether or not he gets what he wants. He simply is content and happy, and what happens in the world around him is just what is, not what defines him. 

I can choose to live an unconditional life, a life of contentment, but it requires that I embrace the freedom I've been dismissing. It's not about talking or bullying myself into contentment or just deciding to ignore feelings of discontent. It's about truly accepting that I'm free - to feel contentment, discontentment and everything in between - and releasing myself from the hold that I've allowed circumstances (be that my children's behavior, a flat tire or a bad mood) to have on me.

Easier said than done, but a goal worth working toward.


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