#5 Motherhood — the moments, the madness, the profound joy, the heart-breaking sorrows
Last week, my son’s baseball team won in extra innings. We had a runner on third base, and one of our players hit a ball to right field. As the ball rose and fell, the right fielder missed the ball, and our runner scored. As happiness ensues for one team, the other packs up. I was elated for our team, but my mind shifted to the kid who missed the ball and…his mom.
After the game, my son said, “You felt bad for that mom didn’t you?” “Fine. Yes, I did…it’s empathy” (Naming it something made me feel better). I know how it plays out – son misses ball – team loses game – blame is assigned, emotions run wild and the ride home is painful!
But whose emotions are in the balance? The player, the coach, the parent? Or “D – ALL OF THE ABOVE”.
HERE’S ANOTHER EXAMPLE –
Friday night we went out to a local pizza place, sat in our regular booth, chatted, and stared up at the outdated TVs watching any team play basketball. It’s March Madness. With so many teams playing, stakes and drama are high – it’s truly a basketball binge-watching dream for fans.
I watched the teenage workers pace back and forth delivering pizzas to booths, clearing tables, and refilling their own clear cups with colorful flavors at the soda fountain machine. I saw one new employee stop and stare at one of the screens, riveted. I looked up. Wrestling? What? I hadn’t seen wrestling since high school…and on a March Madness night? Turns out it wasn’t just any match, it was the Division 1 Wrestling championships, and Iowa’s three-time national champion, Spencer Lee, was in the depths of competing for a chance at a possible fourth straight title. In the end, however, Lee lost in the semi-finals to Matt Ramos from Purdue, cementing one of the most historical upsets in D1 wrestling.
Why did it matter to me? Spencer’s mom…
As notable as the loss, Spencer Lee’s mom was shown reacting to her son’s defeat, and it was remarkable. As soon as the winner’s arm (which was NOT attached to her son) was lifted by the referee, Lee’s mom tore her glasses off of her face and smashed them up in her hands, not one, not two, but three times, hurling them to the floor.
Now that’s mad! Mad at the ref? The opponent? Her son?
Or is it passion? Or sadness? Or frustration?
My mind reeled. Sometimes as parents we are overly invested emotionally and financially in our children’s activities, sports, and school progress. That is to say, we may fail to recall who is swinging the bat, writing the essay, swimming the mile, and solving the equation. Hint: It’s not us…something I forget quite often. Our (sometimes unreasonable) expectations of what our kids can and should do are clear in our heads – run faster, pitch harder, and study smarter. Easy for us to say.
Is it the “happiness” we want for our kids? The joy of winning the race or getting into their number one college? The accomplishment is kinda like a Prime package at our doorstep where underneath the bubble wrap sits all the justification you need for your investment of time, money, and heartache. Until the next thing and the next. Perhaps, as parents, we conflate passion and perfectionism. Let’s face it, seeking perfection is a fool’s errand. We are all messy and cluttered and muddling through the days. Maybe the lesson here is the fact that sometimes other kids are going to do a lot better than our own kids on the field or in the classroom. Sounds like real life doesn’t it?
I recently read about Esther Wojcicki, author of “How to Raise Successful People”. She is best known as the “Silicon Valley’s godmother” and mom to three very successful daughters: Susan, the former CEO of YouTube, Anne, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, and Janet, a professor at UC San Francisco. By implementing her personal parenting philosophy, which Esther refers to as TRICK: trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness, she feels she was able to raise capable, successful children. As far as being a parent, Wojcicki suggests focusing on your own behavior. She says, “Parenting gives us perhaps the most profound opportunity to grow as human beings.”
As parents, we dim our own internal light to brighten that of our children.
Carl Jung said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
What I learned this week:
Real life is all I know. Real joy, real feelings, real pain. Sundays I sit at church and gaze at the Stations of the Cross on the walls, and I see our own journeys to Calvary. Falling some days, getting up the next. Being carried and lifted, scorned and loved. Some days we need to carry each other on the path. Mr. Rogers’ mother used to tell him in times of tragedy, Grace will always show up in the helpers. Be the helper. Be there for the mom who hurls her glasses, the kid who misses the fly ball, and your own child who needs your presence, not your commentary. Not today anyway.
“Sadly, many of the things that undermine our joy and happiness we create ourselves. Often it comes from the negative tendencies of the mind, emotional reactivity, or from our inability to appreciate and utilize the resources that exist within us. The suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can. We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people.” –Dalai Lama