Morning confession: I let my son watch television all afternoon yesterday when he should have been at a sports practice. (I’m not saying which kid, or which practice, so they can both maintain plausible deniability. ) He was tired, he needed a day off, it was plain to see. I know, I know: here was a chance to teach him the value of digging in and working to fulfill a commitment to a team, to himself, and he would have learned that exercise can make you feel better, he’d be happy when he was done. But I was tired, too, tired of schlepping and lugging. Tired of being mindful of what lesson I should teaching.
Let’s call it instead a lesson in when to take a breather. A lesson in the value of down time. A lesson in me listening to his expressed desires and not superimposing my idea of what’s right.
It’s all in how you look at it. In fact, that’s the most important lesson I want to teach my kids: the power of perspective. We can control how we see things, and we can strive to have a perspective of gratitude, to have a world view that looks through lenses of appreciation.
The author Andy Andrews’ new book, The Noticer Returns, has a lot to say about perspective. (I had the chance to interview Mr. Andrews for What The Flicka, which you can read here.) Without spoiling the book for you, here’s one example of a positive perspective. A character is in debt up the wazoo. But he views this depressing situation from a different angle, and comes to see his credit unworthiness as a positive: He will not go into debt again. He will do things differently going forward.
The “perspective story” I’ve been re-telling a lot lately – because it’s short, sweet, and involves baseball so my kids will listen – came from Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben:
A little boy wants to show his Dad what a great baseball player he is. He tosses the ball to himself and tries to hit it with his bat. Three times he swings and misses. Before his father can console his son, who is clearly not a natural, the boy exclaims with wild joy: “Dad, I’m a great pitcher!”
I think of this story when circumstances feel glum. I’m corny, but for me it works. It makes me consciously find the positive. No matter how much I’m dreading something, if I do this I always find something positive, some small different way to look at a situation. It’s flexing my appreciation muscles, and they are getting stronger, more supple and quicker to find the positive glimmer each time.
So instead of seeing my boy’s afternoon of mindless vegetation in front of the tube as a mothering breakdown, I will appreciate the rare joy of him thinking he’s got a “nice” mom. I’ll take that whenever I can get it.
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