Hard Things Are Hard To Do
Why is that such a hard thing to say to our kids when they struggle?
We’ve been wrestling with this topic in my classes and groups this month. It’s one of those things that seems so simple, but it’s actually not intuitive at all.
At least, not to me.
I am a fixer. I like helping people. In fact, I have a bracelet onto which a quote from George Eliot is engraved. It reads: What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for others?
I feel super evolved and awesome when I wear it. And kind of superior because, you know, I live to help others. Which is the best way to be.
Lately, it has occurred to me that my awesome motto might not be right.
At least, not for me.
Because if I make life less difficult for everyone, then no one will have tools with which to deal in difficult situations.
I am thinking specifically of raising kids, of course.
When our newborn is crying because s/he is hungry, it would be more than a little bit cruel to say, “hey, it’s hard to be hungry. I believe in your coping skills.” We have to fix the problem for the baby.
But we (read: I) have a hard time letting go of that impulse as the baby grows up. We (read: I) stay committed to fixing our kids’ problems and alleviating their frustration, instead of helping them feel safe in their frustration (or sadness, or anger, or disappointment….).
It’s really sweet of us.
Also? It’s really messed up.
Why do we rush to fix our kids’ feelings instead of letting them feel their feelings?
I have a few answers.
Oh wait. If I just GIVE you my answers then I am fixing things for you. I should let you struggle to find the answers yourself.
Hahaha. You know I can’t do that. I have a problem with letting others struggle. So I will just tell you how to stop struggling. Because, you know, I live to help others.
We try to fix our kids’ struggles because we are loving and nice parents. Also, because the sound of their voices sighing and whining and growling and complaining makes us want to oil, salt and pepper our heads and put them in the oven. When our kids struggle, we have to witness it. And witnessing it gives us pounding headaches and cravings for sugar and drives us to pick stupid fights with our spouses.
We try to fix our kids’ struggles because we are exhausted. Or hungry. Or embarrassed. Or late for work. Oh, and because we are nice.
If you have ever been in my class or group, or if you have ever been in a meeting with me, or if you have ever heard me pontificating in the hallway, you have heard me use the term, compassionate detachment. I say it a lot. In fact, it would be a fun drinking game for my classes (the adults, I mean) if every time I said, compassionate detachment, drinks were poured.
There are two drinks just in that last paragraph! Sweet.