5 Things I Want My Son To Know About Dating

mother's day tea. (2)Dear Beagle,

When you were in preschool we had a special date called “Mother’s Day Tea.  You and your classmates worked for a week to create invitations, place settings, and snacks.  On the day of the event, dressed up in your Sunday best and wearing a necktie for the first time, you sat patiently waiting at a pint-sized table for two.  I was outside the classroom waiting anxiously for my name to be called.  “Mrs. Dunham,” the teacher announced, which prompted you to stand up, push your chair in gracefully, and walk to the door to take my arm.  You led me to my place as if on official business, and asked me to join you for a bite.  I graciously accepted the tiny chair you pulled out as I fought back tears of joy.

My heart gushed with emotion that day.  Watching you learn the timeless lessons of hospitality thrust my mind toward the day you would be taller than me, dressing in man clothes and shaving in preparation for your date – which wouldn’t include me.

You had perfect manners that day, Beagle.  Any girl would have been proud to be sitting across from you.  My hope, now that you’re dating, is that you retain the sense of importance in this ritual.  You’ve got the basics, but there is so much more about relationships that I want you to know.  Here are the top five:

  1. Don’t be careless with another person’s heart and don’t let them be careless with yours.  You are playing with two hearts.  Protect them both with gratitude, for the risk of incurring hurt is high when you take each other for granted.  Be kind, be gentle, be aware.  Honor the validity of your partner’s feelings even when they differ from your own.  Love is a two-way street.  It’s not about taking and using, it’s about giving and receiving.  Listen to what your own heart is telling you and act on it with a mix of caution and abandon.  And most of all, be brave.  Because at some point your heart will be broken.  But it will heal and find the capacity to love again.  That’s what the heart does so well.  And if it’s you that departs first, let her down with dignity and you will preserve your own.
  2.  Love the one you’re with.  We all want to feel special to someone.  We want to know that the person we’re with has hand-picked us from the pack of possibilities.  At first we are fixated on the other, blinded by love.  But as time wears on, eyes may wander and observations may surface.  If you find yourself distracted by the ‘greener grass,’ it’s time to re-evaluate.  Take stock of your feelings and sort them out so you can make clear decisions.  Perhaps it’s time to move on, perhaps not.  But if you decide to stay, put your whole self into it.  Intimate relationships require and deserve focus.
  3. Don’t kiss and tell.  This is a no-brainer.  If you want your relationships to succeed, you must honor sacred ground.  No matter how much your ‘Boyz’ pressure you for information, keep it to yourself, even after the relationship has ended.  Back away from the desire to brag about your progress with a girl.  Respect the secrets you discover about each other and, dare I say, with each other.  You will never regret the practice of becoming trustworthy.
  4. Be yourself.  Partners in relationship have a way of highlighting each other’s warts, especially when the shine of newness has worn off.  When one chews too loudly or the other does that thing she always does, it’s easy to be critical.  We start to snip away at each other like tailors trimming and binding to make a perfect fit.  Sometimes we agree to give up parts of ourselves and we become altered versions of the whole person we were born to be.  True, we all have some ‘fat’ to trim; we could give up some bad habits that serve no one.  But each of us is perfect and valuable and worthy as is.   Better to find a person that fits the clothes than alter the clothes to fit a person.
  5. Take responsibility.  Relationships possess a level of risk, both physical and emotional.  Don’t let those risks run away with you.  Think before you speak.  Think even harder before you act.  Know what I’m sayin’?  Let me spell it out…If you don’t want to become a teen parent, protect yourself.  Don’t assume your partner is taking care of business.  Or better yet, abstain.  Enough said.                                                                                                                               The most important piece of wisdom to remember about relationships is this: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS.  Don’t try to blame your witchy girlfriend, or her angry mother, or her crazy friends.  No one makes you unhappy.  Happiness is a matter of choice and perspective.  If you love, respect, and care for yourself, happiness will not outrun you.

Beagle, you know how much I adore you.  You’ve long outgrown my cuddles, but I hope you’ll never outgrow my love.  I want the best for you and for all the people who are lucky enough to meet you in this lifetime.  So listen to your wise mother.  And bend down and kiss her once in a while.  She will always be your first love.

“So there’s this boy who stole my heart.  He calls me Mom.”  -anonymous

Love Letters

i love youA teenage girl lost her father and regretted that she hadn’t sufficiently expressed her love before he passed.  Another teenage girl, absorbing this lesson, decided to write love letters to each member of her extended family.  She could write things she couldn’t say out loud.

It took courage to release her feelings.  She felt vulnerable and unsure of how her messages would be received.  Being young and inexperienced in the power of love, the girl did not anticipate the gratitude that was released through her expressions of affection.

A grandmother with a tough exterior, softened.

A beloved grandpa cried outright.

A burdened aunt stepped a little lighter.

And an uncle, who keeps to himself, was shockingly animated and conversant.

It was all very confusing for the girl.  She had discovered that her love had power.  She could hold it or share it.  She could shape it into words that helped people, including herself.  With love, she could change the world.

The girl decided that love would be something she’d use more often to lighten the load.  She vowed to do more reflecting that would remind her of the importance of the people in her life.  She would write to help the people see it too.  She would open herself whenever she could to the gifts that loving-kindness had to offer.

In this way, the girl protected herself from the threat of regret.  More importantly, she pushed love to the front of the line where it belonged, where she could see it clearly and allow it to color her world.

Dog Mirrors

I’ve always wanted a mutt, solely because of the common endorsement that ‘My mutt was the best dog I ever had.’  Of course there are more philanthropic reasons for choosing a rescue dog, but ultimately our decision was made by the fact that our family of five could not agree on a breed.

Husband wanted to enjoy longer than two months of dog-freedom after the passing of Rex.  But the rest of us were impatient, and very convincing with our reasons for jumping back into dog ownership.  Husband accused us of engaging in ‘puppy porn’ which is a fairly accurate description of our addiction to browsing PetFinder.com.

Principessa and I would fall in love anew every day and casually leave photos of glossy-eyed puppies on the family computer for husband to stumble over.  Gradually we wore him down with four-legged cuteness and took his reduction in resistance as a green light to move forward with adoption.  When this irresistible ball of fur jumped out of its crate, husband was sold.

oakley 10.13

It was I who had second thoughts.  We had a two week return policy in case things didn’t work out.  As if.

The following weeks included two trips to the vet, three prescriptions, hypo-allergenic food, and a subscription to pet insurance for a dog who was, well, sick as a dog.  Instead of returning our damaged goods, we became even more attached and protective and committed to dog rehabilitation.  We now have a healthy, energetic, puppy and a few less shoes, rugs, and electrical cords – all lost to the chewing nuisance.

Now, instead of worrying about ill health, we focus on ill behavior.  This, thanks to my passion for discipline.  Husband teases that by the time I’m done with dog training, Oakley will have more diplomas than the rest of the family combined.  Probably true.

On a regular basis, I haul the kids to puppy class and insist on their participation in training for good manners at home.  Principessa approached me with sincere concern that Oakley might be deaf.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because he doesn’t listen to me when I tell him to sit.” she replied.  Oh, my dear daughter.  Oakley is not deaf.  He’s a teenager.

Principessa has also complained that Oakley won’t cuddle with her.  “He’s so ungrateful.  I feed him and play with him and still, he ignores me.”  She could be me, reflecting on her.  The parallels are uncanny.

At a recent dog-training class, Peach and I discussed the common observation that dogs resemble their owners.  We giggled about the shaggy dog with the shaggy-haired woman and the aggressive dog with the angry-faced handler.  Turning the mirror on ourselves, we observed that   10-year old Peach, distracted by so many puppies in one room, had difficulty controlling Oakley’s similarly curious demeanor.

I’d like to say that Oakley is a perfect specimen at my command, thereby reflecting my own composed nature.  But in truth, when I find myself worrying that he is hyper and barky and unfocused, I have to admit that I, too, am off the rails.

Friend asked why, with a typically chaotic family life, I would want to add a dog to the mix?  Despite the ample research on the benefits of pet ownership, it resembles a crazy decision.  True, this.  But at the end of the day, five out of five Dunhams agree that dogs make us better humans.  We are more compassionate, less self-centered beings when caring for a canine.  And more importantly, when our worlds are ablaze with problems we can’t solve, there is always this…

sleeping dog 2

waiting for us at the end of the day.

Love In Hiding

love is blindA woman says of her struggling marriage, ‘Love is supposed to be easy.’  Oh, really?  Where did you get that cockamamie idea?

Perhaps I might have agreed when I was sixteen and fell head over heels for the first boy who returned my affection.  But in a month’s time, a breakup occurred and love ceased being easy.  Love, I learned, could be cruel and uncomfortable.  It could also be thrilling and rewarding.  But never easy.

To be fair, it’s not love itself that is hard.  Life just makes it look that way.  It’s hard to see through the smoke screen of work and stress and disappointment and failure.  Love doesn’t make a ready appearance in the sassy child or the nagging spouse or the demanding boss.  But it is there for the taking.

Love is the reason one puts up with the nonsense of life.  It is the motivation to hold things together –  the reward at the end of the struggle.  Love is not the magic potion that makes the messy disappear, replacing it with perpetual sunshine and butterflies.  Love is the place you try to return to every time life pulls you out to sea.

A mother whose daughter was away at camp wondered, ‘Is it bad that I don’t miss her?  Does it mean that I don’t love her?’  Again, I ask, really?

Love doesn’t have to mean wanting to spend twenty-four hours a day with someone.  Love cannot be defined in neat little packages like this.  It refuses to look a certain way or act a certain way.  It simply cannot be contained in a defined set of parameters.

We have an expectation that love is the bandaid to life.  We count on it to protect and heal even when we’ve turned away.  We slip into the habit of placing love in a corner and ignoring it whilst we charge through life, full of expectations.  In the process of living, we may trick ourselves into believing that a new someone or a new something is more lovable than the old something we already have – the one that has lost it’s shine.  We gravitate toward new love like moths to a flame and realize, wen we get really close, that we can still get burned.  A flame is a flame.  Love is love.  It does not change.

Love itself is constant and accessible.  It will not demand entrance in places that we have closed off.  But if it is invited, right here and now, with the person you think you’ve forgotten how to love, it will come back.  It has to.  For it does not make its own choices.  Love only responds to our invitation.

Man’s Best Friend, and Woman’s and Children’s

dogAn orphaned four year old dog named Rex meets a longing family who is eager to fill their hearts with a new friend.  They are not worried about the dog’s bad habits, his loud bark, or his boundless energy.  They can see that he is smart and eager to learn.  He responds to their attention with the same vigor as he does to his food bowl.

For eight years, the children and Rex grow up together.  They play together, annoy each other, and rejoice in unison when treats are dispersed.

Rex causes grief, as labs can.  He eats Mom’s flowers, steals pizza out of the hands of children, and swipes roast chicken off tables.  But still he is loved.

Slowly, age catches up to Rex, given away by a limp and and a gray muzzle. Peach remarks that even though he’s old, Rex still enjoys a good squirrel chase.

Until the day he let the squirrel pass without so much as the blink of an eye.  He also stopped noticing, or caring, when visitors entered the house.  And he couldn’t be bothered to get up for dinner.

“It’s time.” Mama said, but even she wasn’t sure.  Is he suffering?  What would he want?

The family waited, maybe too long, to make the decision.  Objective eyes assured them that Rex needed to be freed from his cumbersome body.

So the family made THE appointment.  They smothered him with love those last few days, feeding him previously forbidden treats and giving endless belly rubs. A stepping stone was made in his memory while big tears fell.

Mama holds the empty collar and slack leash, missing the tug at the other end.  Peach plays the blues on the piano, then asks to go shopping – her girlish escape.  Beagle reminisces about the time he convinced Mom to let Rex sleep in his bed.  Rex was the brother he never had.  Husband attempts humor and Principessa just sobs.

Life, in its busyness, tricks us sometimes into believing that pets are just another chore.  But when they leave us, the enormity of their contribution to the family crashes into awareness, leaving a gaping hole.  Life is strangely quiet without Rex.  We are a family minus one – one loud, lovable lab.

Farther Down The Road

two footprintsMother can hear grown son screaming to her, or at her, from a distance ahead.  She is hard of hearing but can still make out a tone of annoyance, if not the actual words.  “Catch up, Mom!  Get with the times.  Live!”

Mother wants to oblige.  She promised to follow her baby to the ends of the earth.  But she finds that she can’t keep up now, and son will not slow down.  Can she blame him?  He has a young life to live.  He is smitten with his own family, his glitzy career, his agenda.

Mother is not youthful anymore.  She doesn’t want to give in to ‘old’ yet, but age is calling the shots and she is powerless over it.  Fears are creeping in at a rapid pace. She knows her limits.  Eventually, she gives up the chase and sits down at the side of the path.  It feels so good to rest.   And so lonely.

Mother hardly recognizes herself.  She remembers a time when she was fun and open-minded.  She and son took on the world together.  But the world is faster now, and she is slower.  Speed is no longer a friend.  So she reverts to safe mode, which annoys her son.

Son is easily frustrated by Mother’s evolution.  He is impatient and critical.  He wants her to be the hero she used to be:  ‘Mother the Great’: Invincible Adventurer of Life and Defender of Love.  Deep down Mother knows that son is fearful too.  He sees her slipping away and feels a piece of himself breaking off.  The man he is will not allow him to accept the inevitable.  He will fight age and death by ignoring the signs. He will pretend, as he is accustomed, that Mother is indestructible.

Mother recalls a time when her son was little, playing by the lakeside on a breezy day.  Frustrated that his toy boats were repeatedly knocked over, he asked Mother to stop the wind.  She wanted to oblige her son’s naïve wish but she had to admit that even Mother couldn’t stop the wind.  These many years later, the son is the wind and it is Mother who wants to pin it down, just for a second, to capture the foregone moments that are now only distant memories.

Someday, too soon, Mother will stop travelling the path and come to rest for the last time.  If he is not careful, son may wander too far ahead and regret his absence from the transition.  But today he has a choice.  He could sit a spell with Mother, as difficult as it is, and try to see the world through her eyes for a change – just as she did for him all those years.  Or he could choose to carry Mother a few paces so she could be part of his world.  Both choices will require a concession on the son’s part.

The son’s choice will not change the final destination.  The path was carved long ago for him and his mother.  But his decision will change the journey, and the journey is what matters.  Mother taught him that.

Perhaps the boy chooses well.  Or not.  Mother and son cannot know what the next day will bring. Every day is a different chapter in the story.  The only thing that is certain is that mother loves son, and son loves mother, no matter what happens on the path.

Love Class

Warning:  Rated “S” for Spiritual.  Content may be inappropriate for atheists and agnostics.

crossAs I re-read my ‘Intention to Love’ declaration I noticed a tone of enthusiasm and self-assuredness.  Forty days ago I jumped headlong into Lent with a commitment to love – everyone.  What was I thinking?

It didn’t take long for me to be bowled over by the hard-to-love tidal wave.  Which I could have predicted and prepared for if not for a premature self-satisfaction with my success in loving criminals and sassy teens.

Caroline Myss advises watching what you wish for.  If one asks for patience, one will be presented with three people or situations that try your patience to its limit.  How else would you learn?  Did you expect that patience would fall into your lap just because you asked for it?  Did you think you’d be asked to forgive Santa Claus?

Truthfully, yes.  I had hoped that setting a conscious intention to love would ease the process.  Apparently, it had the opposite effect.  If this is Life School, I signed up for the A.P. class in Love.  And it was more than I bargained for.

One of my first assignments was to find love for a family member who conducted herself in an irresponsible manner.  It was an old story, a skipping record that keeps repeating, making it increasingly difficult to tolerate.

I tackled my assignment with prayer – the old standby.  I prayed for this person to be relieved of her evil ways.  I prayed hard for tolerance.  Nothing changed.  My prayers were like rubber balls bouncing off a wall.

I sat with my  frustration for a while before raising a hand to ask for help.  ‘What am I missing?’  An image of a mirror came to me.  Cautiously, I turned the mirror on myself – on my spiritual arrogance to be exact.  Who was I to think this person needed help?  Maybe she was fine and I was the one with the problem.

I could sense teacher nodding approval.  I was onto something.  My prayers changed to pleas of protection for this family member from me, from my harsh criticism, and for all the ways she has to put up with me. Instantly, the ugliness of her behavior melted away.  Love flowed in as effortlessly and forcefully as water past a newly released dam.  The lesson was clear:  trying or wanting to change others is not loving.  Relationship 101.  I should have remembered that.

With my semester project behind me, I still had to face final exams – Holy Week.  The testing was as intense and stressful as I remember from my college days.  My trying-to-be-more-loving self, now humbled, met with an endless stream of themed challenges:  Loving the Self.

When one has minored in Too Much all her life, and received High Honors in it, she is loathe to dump that ‘accomplishment.’  But if one wants to also claim proficiency in Love, Too Much must go.

Self-critics came out of the woodwork like an infestation of pests that had met with a fumigating spray.  Each had a label – too weak, too loud, too intense, too shy, too bold, too scared, too broken.  ‘Too’ was like a gong clanging in the background of my mind, and often in the foreground.  The world, including my dear family, was more than willing to help me see my too-muchness.

My final exam felt less like a test and more like an unguided trek across dangerous terrain in extreme weather.  And all I brought was a flashlight.  Fortunately, I spotted some encouragement along the way.  There was this from Tama: You do not have to be perfect to lead.  Someone needs what you have learned from your struggle.  And this one from Glennon:  Maybe I am who I am for a purpose.  Maybe I’ve been wasting my energy trying to be different.

As I contemplated the many gurus I admire, it occurred to me that they had their own ‘too-muchness.’  Mother Theresa was described as impatient.  Look what her impatience did for the world!  Gandhi was intolerant (of poverty and oppression) which may have stemmed from his intolerant character.  And Einstein was rebellious.  Need I say more?

We are flawed characters, us humans.  But so lovable.  So deserving.  So valuable.

I rose on Easter Sunday wondering if I passed my Love class.  Did Jesus wonder that when he ascended to Heaven?  Was he worried that maybe he could have done better, saved more people?

I may find myself enrolled in Love Class again next semester and the one after that.  I’ll take it as many times as I have to in order to excel.  And I’ll continue to teach it too.  Because we teach best what we most need to learn.

Is This Goodbye?

handsDear Child,

We are standing at a crossroad.  Before us are two choices.  The first would keep us on the familiar path we’ve been travelling.  It’s the one on which we walk together, sometimes stopping to notice a wondrous bug or a rainbow, sometimes jumping in puddles or stomping on shadows.  This path is full of adventure that is meant to be shared and we’ve done just that.   We’ve held hands while skipping, chased each other in a game of tag, and collapsed in a heap at the side of the road laughing ourselves silly.  In everything, we’ve been together.

But now, the road is splitting.  I want to stay the course – the familiar one.  You are drawn to the other road.  You assure me it’ll be fun, an adventure like nothing we’ve seen before.  ‘I’ll go first’ you say, for the road is too narrow to walk side-by-side.  You beg and plead for me to drop your hand.  You’re old enough, you declare, to take the lead.  ‘Let me show you the way,’ you suggest.

You want your wings sooner than I’d like you to fly.  Fear tempts me to clip them in order to keep you close just a little while longer.  I even try to guilt you into spending more time with me – a weak move, I know.  Your earnest face reminds me that love does not hold on.  It trusts in the flow.  Real love is able to let go when it’s time.

I have been your human guardian this many years.  Now the time has come to trust the work I’ve done and to let you go on ahead.  It’s time you had your own experiences without being weighed down by my presence.  I will not be your ball and chain.  I will not stifle you.  But I may cry a bit trying to keep these promises.

We used to play that game, remember?  The one where you said, ‘I love you, Mom.’ And I’d reply, ‘I love you more.’  We’d debate back and forth trying to prove who loved whom more.  It was always a stalemate.  You’ve stopped playing that game with me, which makes me think that maybe I do win – that I do love you more than you love me.  Well, even if it’s not true, it feels that way when you barely glance in my direction or refuse to answer my questions with anything other than grunts and groans.  Deep down, beneath my insecurity, I know this is simply the way of it.  The natural evolution.  And you do love me, more than you’re willing to admit aloud.

This is an opportunity to be the kind of mother I can be proud of.  It takes all I have to shut down my protective instincts and loosen my grip on your precious hand.  I know that the moment I let go, you will slip away.

Perhaps you’ll return once in a while to check in.  If I leave the door open, you can pop in from time to time and share a story or two about your new adventure.  I’ll be here, following behind you a pace or two, in case you need me.  I’d follow you anywhere, my child.

Go then, quickly, before I change my mind.  And take my blessing with you.  May you find all that you need and enough of what you want.  And may you never forget that I love you.  More.

Love,

Mom

Love, Here I Come

i love youEvery year at this time (the Christian season of Lent) I seize the opportunity to spearhead my own crash course on Life.  Some themes I’ve taken on in past years include Gratitude, Non-Judgment, and Giving.  For forty days I commit my focus to a challenge that impels me to be a better version of myself.  Without fail, this practice proves to be life-altering and inspirational.

I don’t always go public with these personal encounters, but when Friend asked me what project I was cooking up this year (so that she might also be inspired), I felt obliged to share.  Marianne Williamson said, “As we let our own light shine, we give other people permission to do the same.”  Or as the fellow diner said in response to Meg Ryan’s orgasm interpretation (in When Harry Met Sally), “I’ll have what she’s having.”  Same same.

So here it is, The Forty Days of Love.  Cliché, I know, since it also happens to be Valentine’s Day.  But whatever, love rules.

Love is one of those words that has no right being just one word.  There’s too much going on with love to box it up in four letters.  Poets and playwrights, saints and songwriters have said more about love than any other subject, and still, they’ve only grazed the surface.  There’s plenty more to learn about love and I intend to do just that.  Experiment and learn.  I’ll notice it, play with it, express it, apologize for withholding it, accept it, and maybe even try to define it.

No one and no thing is off limits.  If you cross my path this month, be you friend or foe, expect to find love.  Love has agreed to be my constant companion.  It’s good like that – very accommodating – though very sneaky too.  Love tends to hide in the most unlikely places.  No worries, I have a nose like a basset hound.  And a black belt in gratitude.  Love, I will hunt you down if I have to.  But I don’t expect it will come to that.

If you intend to join me on this journey, buckle up.  It’s never an easy stroll through the park.  This conscious living thing is Work.  I’m not talking about ladling on an extra dose of hugs and kisses to the dear ones.  It’s easy to love them. No ma’am, I’m talkin’ love thy enemies – the ones who tick you off and stir the pot and make you want to say those curse words that fit so nicely in the angry space.  That’s the love I want to know – the kind that claims dominion over evil.

It’s you and me against the world, love.  Let’s do this thing.

Deb

p.s. After writing this piece and before posting it, a neighbor’s house was broken into.  I offered up my blessings for the people who had been violated, then another for the criminal – for whatever is going on for him/her that motivates stealing.  Hard to suspend the judgment, but I’m throwing some love in that direction and the judgment is caving.  Powerful stuff love is.

A Sensitive Boy

Part I:  A Vicious Cycle

Once upon a time there was a sensitive boy.  He cried at the drop of a hat.  This annoyed the boy’s father who tried to toughen him up.  “Don’t be a sissy!” Dad said, which made the boy want to cry even more.  But he knew it wasn’t safe.  Instead, the boy choked back his feelings and hid them deep down in his belly where only he could feel the crying.

The crying worried mother, too.  “You’re too sensitive.” She said.  “You’ll get bullied.”  The boy believed her.  With practice, the boy became better at hiding his feelings.  But he didn’t stop feeling them.  Mother noticed that sometimes the boy’s face would turn red.  His lip would curl and tremble and his body would tense.  But he never cried again.

Over time, the boy would learn all sorts of tricks to hide his feelings.  He hid them so well, that even he couldn’t find them after a while.  One day, when the boy became a man, his wife would complain that he was devoid of emotion and unable to truly connect.  This confused the boy.

When the boy had a son of his own, he began to feel something stirring inside himself – something peculiar but familiar.  One day, the son got his feelings hurt and began to cry.  The boy, now a dad, wanted to cry too.  It hurt him to see his son hurting.  He remembered feeling that way when he was young.  But crying was wrong – dangerous even.  So the dad did what he thought was right and told the son to stop crying.  And the son did.

………

Part II – “My Son Is Too Sensitive”  – Is It True?

There is a story we tell ourselves about who we are and how it is.  We are too this.  Too that. Not enough of anything.  Every story is a variation of this shouldn’t be happening. Who would we be without that story?

Welcome to ‘The Work’ a la Byron Katie.  A process of inquiry.

I worry about my son because he’s too sensitive.  I want him to stop crying when his feelings are hurt.  And especially in public.  If he was tougher I wouldn’t worry about him being bullied.  I don’t want to see him hurting.  I don’t want him to get hurt because of the crying.

Belief:  My son will get hurt if he cries

  1. Is it true?   Yes
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true, that your son will get hurt if he cries?  No
  3.  How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? I get scared and angry and worried.  I try to toughen him up.  I try to help him not to feel.  I feel like it’s my job to change him.
  4.  Who would you be without the thought ‘my son will get hurt if he cries.’  I’d relax about him.  I’d comfort him instead of yell at him to stop crying when he’s hurting.  I’d be a parent who loves her sensitive son because I do love him so much.  I’d see how caring he is.  How he can sense what other people are feeling – which is a gift. I’d be able to love him and not worry about how sensitive he is. I’d support him.

Turn the thought around (to statements that are as true or truer): ‘My son will get hurt if he cries’

  1.  To the self:  I get hurt when he cries.’  (True.  I suffer with worry when I think of what his crying means.)
  2. To the opposite:  ‘My son won’t get hurt if he cries.’  (Might be true.  I don’t know how people will react.  Maybe he’ll meet with sympathy and understanding.)
  3.  To the other:  ‘I hurt my son when he cries.’  (True!  I disrespect his feelings.  I dishonor him when I tell him he shouldn’t feel the way he feels. I do what I’m afraid others will do to him – I hurt him when he cries!)

……

I realize I have two sons in my mind – the son I have and the son I think I want him to be.  The real one and the one I imagine to be better and safer.  I try to change him because there’s fear inside that I don’t know what to do with.  When I question my thoughts and meet my fear, I see that in my desire to protect him, I am actually hurting him.  Where is the love in that?

I don’t have to change what I believe. But I can, and should, question it.   Because if I don’t challenge my thoughts, they plague me.  So I ask myself again, who would I be, who would he be, without these thoughts? Can I find one stress-free reason to keep my thoughts?  In the questioning, I begin to see that none of my thoughts are true.  On the other side of the questions is freedom – for both of us.

It turns out, the world is perfect.  It’s what I think about the world that needs work.

 

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