I was riding in the car with Dana and Charlotte last week on the way home from school. Dana, now age 11 and on an academic scholarship to a new private middle school, was sharing the details of her recent class field trip experience. She was describing the vehicle her class took to get to their destination–a luxury tour bus with TVs, cup holders, and plush seats.
I responded by saying, “Wow. No yellow school buses anymore? You’re fancy now at your private school. Nothing but the best for you guys, I guess.” It may have been a little snotty as I was trying to keep any feelings of entitlement and over-indulgence at bay, but Dana laughed and agreed with me. Neither of us are used to that level of accommodation.
It was quiet for a moment when Charlotte, now age 8, piped up. “Dana, you know what? You deserve that. That must have been really fun for you.”
Dana and I looked at each other and laughed out loud. We both then thanked Charlotte and agreed with her, that yes, Dana certainly was deserving of that special bus ride on her field trip.
It hit me at that moment that balance is a funny thing. While I may have been trying to minimize Dana’s experience by making sure she knew where she came from, Charlotte brought it right back around. It was almost as if she was saying, “You can’t make her feel bad for that, Mommy. She deserves that.”
And she’s right.
Sometimes we let fear keep us from knowing what we already know. Dana is not an entitled, selfish kid, and we’re all still learning how her new school works. I have to accept that it is my own personal fear that fancy buses and a more affluent environment are going to change her as a person. If I had to do that conversation all over again, I would have said something like, “Wow. How cool! That must have been so comfortable and nice!”
Fear and control are best friends in my mind, each one high-fiving the other while secretly trying to get the upper hand. I feel like I can control some unknown outcome here when what I really need is some balance and some trust in who Dana is as a person. I guess that’s what middle school is all about. It’s a time for them to spread their wings a bit without the constant watch of micro-managing moms like me. At Back-to-School night, her teachers politely declined my offer for in-classroom help. It’s leaving me a bit lost and a bit sad, but I will find other ways to support the school and stay connected with Dana.
As both of our kids are on their way to success and personal fulfillment, my current challenge is to find the balance of letting go a bit. I’m not the type to sit back and observe. I really can’t handle any kind of chaos or disorganization. But I have to learn to. It’s at this point in my life and our girls’ lives that it is healthiest for me to work on not letting the fear and control get the best of me–to work on developing positive feelings of trust and faith to guide us through more of the unknown.
I firmly believe that this approach to my mental health is as important as any food I put into my body. My thoughts and feelings are like my oxygen. They lift me up or take me down at any given moment. There is so much value in the way we think and feel that we need to accept that this is a component of health that really can’t be ignored.
Our family’s experiences with health dictate to our kids that we are all a work in progress. We have learned that it’s crucial to accept the challenges in front of us and adapt to them. Last week, Charlotte let me know that my response to Dana could have been more supportive. My body and mind ached for a change in thinking to feel better about Dana’s school experience. Until I did it, I didn’t realize how much better it would feel to let go of the fear, mistrust, and the need to control.
Changing our health means taking a hard look at ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions. It means always asking: Am I balanced? Am I having enough fun? Sleeping enough? Drinking enough water? Would I do better with less bread? These nagging questions are like Charlotte’s little voice in the back of the car. Can I do better? What can I let go of?
There’s no right or wrong. It’s a little bit of this and some more of that. We each must do our best to find our own balance each day, to realize a customized approach to how we approach our thoughts, our food, our exercise routine, and our relationships. It’s a personal journey that is uniquely ours, and we’re learning that the trick is to try to enjoy the ride. Maybe it’s best to pick one with plush seats and cup holders.