If there are certain characteristics about your children that bug you, first of all let me say, you are not alone.
Second, let me say, the reason those characteristics bug you so much may be worth investigating.
It could prove to be a life changer.
This is my story …
My youngest daughter does things in her own time–her own SWEET time. When we go for a walk, it is a gentle stroll. Her motto: Why get sweaty when you don’t have to?
Swim meet competitions are no different. While other swimmers furiously fly past, my child enjoys long, leisurely strokes. And by the looks of her winning smile, one might think “last” is the new “first.”
When trying to get somewhere quickly, I may as well just save my breath with phrases like “hurry up” and “we’re going to be late.” Unless the ice cream truck is rounding the corner, such terms only lessen her pace.
I must be honest. Her inherent slowness, her laid back approach to life really used to bug me. In fact, it has caused dangerous spikes in blood pressure and a few gray hairs.
Interestingly enough, my older daughter is the opposite. She is fast. Living quick and passionately, she seizes ambitious pursuits without hesitation.
Each week, if not every single day, a new vision is born, a new project to pursue—and with it, a new mammoth-size mess is made.
She starts a sewing project—clothes and miniature pillows for her dolls. Within minutes, it appears as if a fabric store has descended and exploded on her bedroom floor.
She gets a Japanese recipe book from the library and she declares that she will try every recipe in the book. Green tea ice cream, crab wontons, fried tofu—they are all fair game. The kitchen is a flurry of activity. We have our own Asian bistro—and the mayhem of 10 sloppy chefs.
She discovers a love to teach, so she opens a summer school and invites real children to be her students. For months prior to opening day, lesson plans cover the house. Bulletin board assembly creates the world’s smallest scraps that stick to bare feet. Once again, the remnants of creating a dream are not a pretty sight.
Again, I must be honest. Her fast and furious passion for life really used to bug me—almost as much as her little sister’s slowness.
Notice I wrote “used to” bug me.
You see, things changed a few weeks ago. The change was so subtle that it almost went unnoticed. Thank God, it didn’t. And if there is anything about your children or significant other that irritates you, you may want to read this.
We had spent the morning at the beach. Everyone was hot and tired and ready to go home. My husband and older daughter started back carrying the cooler and several bags. Judging by their quick strides, I quickly surmised I would be holding up the rear, meandering along with my youngest child.
It was not the ideal time for a stroll. The umbrella strap was digging a permanent home in the crease of my neck. The metal bars of two beach chairs were creating temporary tattoos on my forearm. Since I had no free hands to wipe my perspiring forehead, there was a monstrous bead of sweat dangling from the end of my nose. And my youngest, as usual, was in no hurry.
But for some reason, I held my tongue. And when she stopped to investigate a tiny crab. I did not say, “Come on, let’s go.” I set down my arsenal of beach gear and rested, studying her face as she studied the crab. And when she looked up and pointed out a cloud that looked like Minnie Mouse, I marveled with her. And when she asked what made me fall in love with her daddy, I told her a memory I hadn’t told a soul.
Then she offered to carry the bucket of sand toys so she could hold my hand.
And in that moment, her slow approach to life didn’t bug me. Oddly, it inspired me.
Finally we reached our destination. Before I could even relish the cool blast of an overtaxed air conditioner, my older daughter thrust a handmade menu into my hand. I was bombarded with a sea of questions about restaurant management. She announced that she was making plans to create a muffin stand–“like a lemonade stand, but WAY better.”
She rattled off all the important details: Her homemade muffins would be sold at the corner of our front yard for $1.25 a piece. Flavors would include blueberry, banana nut, pumpkin, and other seasonal flavors. She would have free samples and buy-one-get-one-free coupons to entice customers.
In mind my, I envisioned my disheveled little baker alternating between stirring the batter, designing business cards, and test tasting—all beneath a thick haze of flour dust.
But this time I did not flinch. Nor did I get a feeling of dread at the pit of my stomach.
I sat down next to her and listened to her thought process and problem solving skills. As she tore through her notebook designing and sketching, she’d periodically ask my opinion. Other times, she wouldn’t say anything at all; she’d simply look up and smile at me. Her dream was coming to fruition. And out of all the people in the world, she wanted to share it with me.
And in that moment, her fast and furious passion for life didn’t bug me. Oddly, it inspired me.
At the conclusion of her planning session, my daughter asked me to look at the calendar to see what day she could open “Banjo’s Bakery” (lovingly named after our new kitten). Suddenly, my hand flew to my mouth.
It was my 2nd Hands Free Anniversary.
On that very day two years ago, I broke down on a hot tarmac road and vowed to stop missing life. I vowed to make small changes to let go of distraction in order to grasp what really matters.
And maybe one of my greatest “Hands Free” lessons was two years in the making. Because after all, this one is a tough pill to swallow.
Perhaps what bugs me about my children reveals a longing in myself—an unfulfilled desire, a long-time deficiency within me.
Do you know how often I wish I could slow down?
Stop and savor the bird’s song on my way out the door …
Spend an hour reading books in my bed and not feel guilty …
Smile simply because I am pulling my favorite pair of pj’s over my head …
Do you know how much I often wish I could put my dreams in action?
To throw caution to the wind and decide there is nothing more important that pursing this dream at this moment …
To reach for my greatest aspirations without fear of failure, without considering what anyone else might think, without making excuses …
To ignore the mess as it piles up around me and focus solely the passions of my heart …
Perhaps what bugged me about my children’s uniquely different approaches to life was that they touched on my own deficiencies.
What I’ve wanted to change in my children were characteristics I wanted to grow in myself.
And yes, it took two years of “letting go to grasp what matters” to figure it out.
But that is OK. It’s never too late to gain a new perspective.
After all, I recently learned life is not a race; it is a journey. And I’ve got plenty of time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got dreams to put into action.
Things could get messy.
Is there anything that irritates you about your child or significant other? Today I challenge you to go “Hands Free” and let go of past feelings about this “issue” and look at it from a new perspective. Where you once found annoyance, you may find life-changing inspiration. And for those of you who “got” this lesson long before I did, please share your experiences!
Thank you for being a part of “The Hands Free Revolution” – a supportive community striving to let go of daily distraction to grasp what really matters!