The Messy Bits

A recent horoscope of mine gave me some sage advice. I don’t typically read my horoscope (where have you heard that before), but sometimes something catches my eye and has the kind of nonsensical message that makes complete sense. This particular one, in our local paper a few weeks ago said, “it’s important for you to learn from the messy things in your life and not just assume it all needs to be scoured and disinfected.”

These words seemed to have been written as though for my soul alone. I laughed it off at first, but the words entered my brain and stuck. I do scour. I do clean. I fix (I may have mentioned this in a previous blog). It’s who I am. And I’m particularly bad at doing this when it comes to my son. He’s not messy, but sometimes I’ve seen his life that way. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something I need to face.

If he is making what appears to me to be a bad choice, I’m all over him with advice, words of caution, warnings, and what I like to think of as steadfast guidance (from his perspective it’s probably more like the overbearing pushiness of a bully).

I can barely control myself when I think he is doing something that doesn’t match what I would do in a similar situation. But who am I to judge? It’s not that I haven’t made poor choices, taken dangerous risks, gotten in over my head financially, romantically, and in every other possible way. I’ve done all of these things, and yet somehow I expect more of him than I did of myself at his age. I mean isn’t he simply experimenting and finding his way, learning and making it up as he goes along. Didn’t we all do this when we were young?

In my defence, I think I want to prevent him from getting hurt or suffering. But this is no excuse. Who am I to deprive him of life’s experiences or the opportunity to make his own choices? When I interfere, I’m making judgements. I’m basically telling my son that he can’t possibility manage on his own. With my actions, I’m telling him I don’t trust him enough to make a good decision. The rub here is that I do trust him. I just don’t act that way. We all know that what we do speaks louder than our words (even when those words are I love you).

Have you ever seen the Andrew Solomon Ted Talk? He poses and discusses the question about what it is like to raise a child who's different from you in some fundamental way (a prodigy, or differently abled, or a criminal). In this talk, Mr. Solomon differentiates between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?

Mr. Solomon’s talk made me realize that while I have always loved my son, I haven’t always unconditionally accepted him. I’m working on letting go of the need to scour the messy bits. Instead, I’m refocusing on how grateful I am to have him. It’s not easy for me to let go and let things be, but lucky for me my son is accepting of my peculiarities.           

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