Hidden Treasure

I have always been an optimist but I have one child who is decidedly not. His mindset is, by far, one of my biggest challenges as a parent. And also, one of my greatest learning opportunities.

This dear child came into the world expecting the worst to happen in most every situation. If I cheerfully said, “You’re going to love pre-school. They have great toys and you’ll make new friends.” he’d grumpily say, “Teachers yell at you and the kid’s will take my toys.” Every conversation was point and counterpoint, but I was determined I would show him a brighter way. The opportunities were many for us to disagree. And in the beginning, that is exactly what I did. Until he was about the age of five, I fought with him about everything. Lord, the energy I wasted. I can see that now. But as is true for everything, you don’t get it until you get it.

The exact moment eludes me of when the light bulb finally turned on. Probably in the car while I was driving kids somewhere for the millionth time. But there was a point when I decided that I didn’t want to fight him anymore. All of my insistence that the world is rosy was only causing friction and negative energy between us. It was only showing him that I could never see things from his perspective, that I could only judge him and deem him wrong. This was not the basis for a good mother/son relationship.

So I let go of my need to be right. I started to put myself in his shoes and a crazy thing happened. I realized that a lot of the things he was saying were actually true. The teachers do yell. The kids do take his toys. Now we had the basis for a real conversation. “What do you think about when the teachers yell?”, I asked. And in the asking, instead of the telling, is a treasure trove of information. Turns out this kid sees a lot of things that other people miss or gloss over like I did. Things that, while not so pleasant, are important to know. Go figure.

Now, I will not claim that I love it when he’s refusing to play in the yard because a bee might sting him every day of the summer break, but I do love that he has taught me to dig deeper. I currently know way more about flying insects than I ever thought I would. And I am a better person because he has taught me to have more compassion for other people’s viewpoints, to see that there is more under the surface of each of us, even if those views are considered not so positive. This has brought me patience when random people throughout my day do things that I don’t agree with. I ask myself questions, instead of getting annoyed. “Do you think they are afraid of driving?” I ask, about the person going 40 mph in front of me on the highway. “Do you think she had a fight with her husband?” I ask, about the checkout person who just snapped at me. There is always a hidden treasure if we choose to look for it. Thank you, my little pessimist, for showing me that.