This morning started out fairly typical trying to get Leela ready for school. During the many steps of preparation there is always bound to be a detour and it can at times be quite a challenge to keep my cool when there seems to be so many obstacles to overcome to just get out the door. Today, when she was "supposed" to be getting dressed I found her reading a book (called "How to be Happy") - it is a book with lots of great crafts and activities and is part of the amazing Relax Kids series. I always love when I find her reading by herself and though I didn't want to discourage her behavior, I reminded her that there was a time to read and the time was not when we are trying to get to school and are running late. She then asked me to leave her alone. I was a little upset at this point, feeling frustrated that she was not cooperating, but once she was dressed I gave her some space and went downstairs.
As I prepared breakfast, she ran around getting her scissors, and tape, working intently on her "secret" project. Again, I was thinking, "this is not the time for this", though I tried my best to respect her creative burst and just step back and release my grip a little. Just as it was time to eat some of her breakfast before we rushed out the door, she said, "I have a surprise for you Mommy". She then handed to me a picture, replete with cut out mountains, drawings of clouds and a sun and a hand written message that said "I love you Mom". She then explained to me that she made it to make me happy and showed me the page of the book she had been reading from. It was a section on activities "How to do Nice Things for Mum and Dad"). I stood there, humbled and grateful. I also felt some guilt surface, like "I can't believe I was getting so frustrated when all she was trying to do was make me something and tell me she loved me".
It got me thinking about how as parents we have these expectations of our kids, and a lot of them have to do with what is convenient for us, what is going to make us feel like we are still in charge, like we have kids that listen to us. When these expectations are not met it can create a backlash of feelings and reactions like "I must be doing something wrong" or "if they would just cooperate I wouldn't have to get so irritated". Another common reaction is this feeling of being tested. How often have we said "don't test me" or something similar to our child? Though I didn't pull that one out this morning, I certainly felt like she was testing me. Like her behavior was not just her doing her own thing, but was being done in opposition to what I wanted her to do - that she was just being difficult to be difficult.
When I looked at the colorful creation, her industrious and crafty use of construction paper, glue and crayon I realized that the whole time I was feeling tested, she was simply trying to show her love for me and make me happy (quite the opposite of to "make me mad" as I had been feeling). It made me recall what has always philosophically felt true to me as a parent in that, though it may feel counterintuitive to step back, when kids are allowed some freedom and room to exert their independence they will establish healthy behaviors themselves, such as taking time to do something nice for someone.
What a lesson.
How many times in a day do we feel like whatever is happening is inconveniencing us, when it actually it may be a gift, literally in the works? We, myself very much included, can be so self centered in our view of what is happening, completely altering the reality of what is actually taking place. Our perspective and attitude can change everything in our ability to receive love and the lessons that get us closer to our heart. And while we can't do away with order and schedules all together, our daily efforts to soften and our commitment to be less attached to outcomes may very well make space for less frustration and some amazing surprises.
We managed to make it to school only a few minutes late, but it was worth the surprise for sure.