Monday, February 7, 2011

Discussions About Life

It had been such a beautiful day! Warm, Spring-like, gorgeous!

It was late in the afternoon. My daughter suddenly wanted to go to the beach, even for just a short time. My son did not want to go to the beach.

At their age, it is either all or none. I decided that we should go; the sun would soon be setting, we wouldn't be gone long.

So, off we went.

We are extremely fortunate to live within a mile of a lovely beach and bird sanctuary. Because of the fantastic weather, the beach was crowded with people of all ages, and birds, of many different feathers, were floating, flying and walking around the area. Couldn't have asked for a more perfect setting.

My son, however, was moping. At first, he didn't want to play with his sister, and then he did want to play with her, but she wouldn't play the way he wanted to... (sigh) One of those moments every parent has to deal with. I usually try to deal with it by casting my mind back to my own childhood, sifting through the memory banks for similar experiences.

He finally came over and sat by me, arms crossed, with a cloudy look on his face.

"What's wrong?" I asked (already knowing).

"She won't let me play with her," he said.


"Well, she will, but only if we play the way she wants to," came his answer.

"Hmmm..." Meanwhile, the memory banks were flicking images through my brain, and I was winding up to formulate some sort of response to his difficulty, hopefully a response that might be useful.

"You know, when I was a child, I was serious, just like you are. The difference between you and me is that you talk more about what is going on with you. I didn't talk, thinking I had to handle everything on my own," I paused, to see if he was listening.

"You do have to handle your experience on your own; I cannot change your experience for you, to make things happen the way that you think you want them to happen." I swept my arm around at the fabulous view and the people enjoying it. "Here we are in this beautiful place, in this beautiful moment, and you are choosing to be miserable."

"I know that it is disappointing when things don't go your way. Most days in life are like that, honestly. I can think of few days in my life when things have gone perfectly or the way that I wanted." He cut a glance at me, considering this with some skepticism.

"I think the secret to getting along through life must lie in letting go of the need to control circumstances that, let's face it, really can't be controlled, and by taking time to look at what is actually happening around us. If we can do that, it may be possible to find the beauty that just is, not a moment that we manufacture or manipulate, but one that is just there and includes us. Do you see?"

He was thinking about what I said.

"I think that if you spend more time finding and being within the beauty of things the way they are, you will feel less need to control them. There are so many people in the world who spend all their waking moments trying to make things happen and in continual frustration over not being able to control everything and every person around them. Ultimately, I think this is a waste of good living time, when you could be appreciating that you are part of this beautiful and remarkable place and moment. This beautiful moment is yours, if you can see it, hear it, taste it, touch it. bathe in it."

He looked out over the water. The sun was making a glorious red slide down behind the San Francisco skyline.

"There, see? We can go home now--this was only a quick outing anyway. Let's go home and make dinner."

He was watching the colors change along the horizon. He seemed more relaxed. But, I wondered, had he been able to digest what I had said? I don't know. But it seemed to me like he was thinking about it.

"Why don't you go get your sister, and then we'll go."

"Okay, mom." He ran over to where his sister was drawing pictures in the sand and splashing around.

Looking after him, watching them both, and remembering my own years of frustration and seriousness (then and now), I wondered if what had I said would help, or not.

If there is one thing I know, it is this: as a parent, I cannot mitigate my children's experiences--they must experience what they will experience.

Experience is the great teacher, but only if we are willing to be pliant and infinitely flexible students. Experience is the reason for life, though perhaps life's meaning is beyond experience, as meaning implies a synthesis that can only be derived from a culmination of all experiences.

I thought about what I had said to him. I wondered if I were modeling, in our home life, any of what I had suggested. If so, was it enough to be a good model?

And then I wondered if I could remember what I had said long enough to write it down, to be a wisdom that I, too, could quietly consider.

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