As Ben lay his head down on the pillow, he said to me with unbridled excitement, “I can’t wait to get my white belt tomorrow!”
My immediate thought was this: He’s not getting his white belt on the first day of class! He’s going to be so disappointed when he finds this out…
“Ben, I don’t think they give out white belts the first day of class. Don’t get your hopes up, okay?” His face immediately crumbled + squished into a cry and tears pooled in his eyes. “I’m not talking to you!” he shouted. “You just ruined all my happiness!”
And this is what we do, right?
With love in our hearts, we try to protect our kids from sadness and pain. We try to shield them from what we think will hurt more – being blindsided by disappointment. It’s vulnerable to want something. Especially if we don’t know if we will get it. We would rather say to ourselves, Well, it probably won’t happen. Or, It would be nice if it happened, but I don’t really care. We get so good at protecting ourselves that often our desires never even make it to our radar.
I could see in this moment with Ben that I really was ruining his happiness. I was squashing his delight. I was telling him in some subtle way to not want what he might not be able to have. Probably because I couldn’t be with the vulnerability of it.
Could I have just let him have his excitement?
The next day we went to karate class. And after breaking a board in two, Ben earned his white belt. ON THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS.
And me? I earned a valuable lesson in desire. (Maybe even a white belt)
We want what we want. We will get it or we won’t.
But it takes courage to want something. It leaves us vulnerable and that’s why it feels scary.
But to desire is our birthright. And maybe even half the fun. Maybe even half the joy.
He is totally awesome. I love the “holy cow” at the end : )
Beautiful post. thank you for sharing this tender story. I don’t know what I love more, how beautifully he expressed himself with “you just ruined all my happiness!” or the expression on his face when he turned after breaking the board…I’m actually laughing and weeping at my desk at work. For you. and for your lovely boy. and for a profound but quiet lesson…it’s so hard not to be all “parent-y” all the time…thanks for this. I needed this one this week…
I’m reminded of a scene from The Hours where Clarissa talks about getting up in the morning with a great sense of possibility. “And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.” To me, this is a reminder to recognize happiness NOW. When that sense of possibility comes around, it IS happiness. So, I’d like to say that desire, in the way you describe it, isn’t half the joy, but joy period. Looking forward to something and feeling happy in that looking forward is happiness no matter if it turns out the way we hope or not. No joyous moment is ever a waste.
It took years and years for me to learn this, and I was brought up just like the way you describe. I was told to not get my hopes up and I got so good at it that for a while I wasn’t even able to recognize desire. (Which lead to depression, I might add.) Desire meant danger. (Which is not the same thing as “scary”, things can be scary without being even the slightest bit dangerous.)
So, I think you’re on the right track. White belt for sure! Ben is lucky to have mum like you. 🙂
Oh Camilla… you said this so beautifully! and deepened the conversation for all of us. Thank you!!!
Going to re-read what you shared.
I was just watching yesterday a video of Marshall Rosenberg doing a training on Nonviolent Communication. He said “Empathy before education.” Love the reminder. Thank you, Andrea, for your heart-full stories, and for sharing the growing moments awakened by your very wise son.
I love that boy.
I feel so blessed to share in his life through your posts!
Andrea, thank you for this story. It is just what I needed. Touching and honest and so real. Our children are such wonderful teachers full of wisdom and truth.
Wow…I remember when I was in Junior HIgh, and was nominated for Homecoming Queen. I was a tomboy, played the drums in Band, and I think I may have been nominated by the football team as a joke. But when I told my father, he said, “Don’t get your hopes up…you probably won’t be voted to win.” I’m 46, and still remember clearly how soul-crushing that comment was. And to this day, way back in my mind, I wonder if that comment, made with love, I am sure; but how it has affected the way I view myself and my worth every time I have a conversation with him. Powerful, powerful lesson…thank you for sharing your vulnerability regarding your point of view as a parent. Love this!!
I have been having a rough few weeks and seeing Ben break that board was AWESOME. Something about him doing it – so empowering. Here’s to all his karate belts to come.
This brought a tear to my eye: for that ruined happiness, for watching Ben succeed, for his “holy cow!” joy, and for seeing myself and those I love in all of it. Thank you!
I’ve fallen off the sofa laughing! Holy cow!
(BTW, I was the joy killer this morning as my 12 year old headed out for school, happy in his favorite shirt for the third day in a row. “You’re stinky,” I said, and he changed. The truth is his class is full of stinky kids who haven’t yet noticed that the one-a-week bath won’t work in puberty. I’m so afraid of him getting judged that I train him in insecurity instead. Argh.)
Your post touched me because I do the same thing to myself, often so quickly + unconsciously that I don’t even realize it’s happening. Unlearning it is a slow process.
(Also loved Camilla’s comment. I want to remember that too.)
Yes, yes, yes! Oh the beauty of it all. Of the desire. Of the joy in the moment when we have desire. Of the mama love. Of the wanting to protect. Of the vulnerability. Of the getting what we want or not getting what we want. The complete and utter joy of simply being human — and all our desires that come with it! LOVE THIS POST — and you! xo
The holy cow excitement has me crying. Great Post. Great lesson for me. x
Your words carry so much emotion that stir such deep meaning inside of me. Thank you for always being so authentic and heart felt. Your son is helping me to believe in my own dreams again.
This brought tears to my eyes. Your little guy is awesome!
This post has really made me think about how I react and respond to friends and family that express their hopes and dreams to me. I will certainly be mindful of how I respond not only to them but to myself as well.
Thank you! I am afraid I do this to my children too. It’s hard being a superhuman… Good lesson for all.
Andrea, I hope someday soon you compile all your posts into a book. Your way of writing has such clarity, and hopefulness, alway’s brightens my day when I read them.
thank you.. – and thanks to everyone who responded!
Andrea- What a magnificient post. And the picture AND video of your son are priceless!!! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Just made me smile really big 🙂
I’ve been having a lot of doubts about the value of my writing, even though doing it and marketing it brings me great happiness. Thank you (and Ben!) for reminding me that the happiness is a form of strength in itself. And to refuse the messages my grown up mind still sends my inner child. I’ll just tell it “Stop it! You’re ruining my happiness”! Thank you!
I ruin my kids’ happiness all. the. time. with the concern for preparing them for the worst so any result will be better than that, right? It’s how I grew up, too, in spite of my mom always saying, “All I want is for you to be happy.” Thanks for the reminder to keep my thoughts to myself and let positive thinking prevail! Holy cow!
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