I’m a mom. Mom’s have a way of becoming somewhat psychotic or at least neurotic when it comes to defending and protecting their children. I am no exception. I remember when my eldest son Alex was about 3 years old and I dropped him off at the play yard of his preschool. A couple of 4 year olds came along and wanted to take a little tricycle away from him. I had to hold myself back to keep from wanting to beat up his 4 year old school mates.
Fast forward to today where I’ve reached a supposed level of maturity, which I have actually but not always when it comes to my kids. Recently there was a situation involving my younger son Andrew. I felt like he wasn’t getting the kind of recognition I felt, or rather I KNEW he deserved. I found myself behaving in a less than attractive way uttering unfortunate descriptions of his competition. Even while I was doing it, I knew it felt wrong, but I let the criticism roll off my tongue. At least I had the good sense to do it mostly in private.
And then I went back to reading Cheryl Strayed’s book “Dear Sugar: Advice on love and life”. While I don’t agree with every single piece of the book, I found it to be generally lovely. Strayed is a wonderful writer, an old soul and is a human being with more compassion in her bones then should be allowed. I stumbled upon the following passage that had nothing to do with protecting your kids or permission to be a momma bear. But here it is:
“When I feel jealous, I tell myself to stop feeling jealous and to stop being a jealous person. The cure for feeling jealous is to stop being a jealous person.”
Profound rocket science right? It is incredibly simple, and yet the key is not to simply utter magic words and the behavior stops. It means to ACTUALLY CHANGE the behavior and then the feelings will stop because there is no behavior for them to take root within.
When I thought about what I was really feeling, I was behaving in my own child (me as a little person- not Andrew) voice. I was feeling the many times that I didn’t win the prize or get picked for the team. And by projecting that on to Andrew in that moment, I wasn’t thinking about teaching him that he could not win the prize and still be okay. More importantly, I wasn’t thinking about how many times I DID win the prize, and did get picked by the team and someone else did not. I don’t recall times when I got picked and I started feeling how unfair it was that someone else did not.
This realization allowed me to realize that to stop feeling jealous, I needed to stop looking at what the other kids had done or not done. I needed to consider that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. To not win doesn’t mean that you are a loser. It simply means you didn’t win this time. To stop being a jealous person, I needed to focus on Andrew’s many accomplishments and to realize the joy that those bring to both him and me. With that in mind, it’s hard to behave in a jealous way, because there is nothing to be jealous about. Jealousy is not a flattering emotion on anyone. It speaks to a sense of lack, which is a condition created entirely from within rather than externally.
Our little selves are alive and well inside all of us. We want them to be because they contain many wonderful memories, vulnerabilities, innocence and raw emotion. But those parts of our selves also need to be parented by our more mature and wise self. They need to be protected and treated with compassion and they do not like to have their left over wounds ignored or pushed away by our adult parts.
Any time we find ourselves operating in an irrational or overly emotional way, I believe it is our child self that just took the driver’s seat. Rarely does this prove to be a good strategy.