A few years ago, I was talking to a wise friend about some of the circumstances surrounding the twins’ birth and adoption that were a bit heartbreaking. I was spiraling into despair when she said, “Is there anything you can do about that?”
I responded that I could somehow get them a few more weeks in their birthmother’s womb; I could intervene medically somehow to get them to full-term. I wondered about traveling back in time and changing the circumstances of poverty in America. I pretty much wanted to defy the laws of physics.
She said, “Let’s try this again. Is there anything you can do about any of that?” I sat quietly. She responded for me, “No, there really isn’t.”
It was uncomfortable and frustrating to sit with that reality, but it eventually freed me a bit. Realizing how little power I had in that situation pointed me towards their future instead of staying stuck in their past. It helped me ask, “What’s next?”
Now, when my kids are going through something, I ask myself the same question, “Is there anything you can do about that?”
If the answer is no, then I know my job is to equip them to handle whatever they are facing. It helps us all move onto things we actually can change.
If the answer is yes, then I make myself stop and wonder, “But should you do anything?”
Especially with my teenagers, the answer is often, “No, you really shouldn’t.” There are very few circumstances that require me to intervene. More and more, my job as their mom is to teach them how to handle obstacles. My job is to show them that they can endure hard things.
Sometimes, I have to get out of my own way in order to guide them. My first reaction is usually not my best. Especially when it comes to my kids and the ways they are hurting, I simply cannot trust my gut response. My first tendency is a flash of anger and protection and ferocity that makes me want to storm the Bastille. Then, I move to wondering about the viability of voodoo and at the very least wanting to call someone’s mother.
It’s best if I take a few breaths and at least let my kids finish talking. Being rational doesn’t come naturally to me, but I know that I really can’t be of much help to my kids if I’m acting like a vindictive psycho. It’s like I need my emotions to sift through my heart to get out the rough pieces and pointy rocks. I need to wait for the gentler soil to settle.
A few days ago, I listened to my son talk about a situation that made my blood boil. I didn’t say the first few things that came to mind and waited until I had the right words. “Haters gonna hate,” was where I landed. It felt great to offer words that were helpful and empowering and true. He laughed and said, “I can’t believe you just said that, but I think you are right.”
I should get that in writing.