I had what could very loosely be termed an epiphany of sorts this week. It could also be termed a train of thought that simply wound its way around a number of sharp turns and meandering roads to lead to a moment when I said, “Hmmm.” But an epiphany sounds better, right?
Anyway, it all started with a moment of irritation. I wish I could say it was the only one I experienced this week, but that would be a lie. Given my not-so-patient nature and my current state of hovering on the edge of crazy pants, irritation was bound to happen.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that I’m not alone in what I’m about to confess. Here goes.
There are some people in my life with whom I get irritated VERY easily. In fact, one might say I go into interactions with these people very nearly expecting to be irritated. And guess what? Invariably that’s just what happens.
After one recent interaction that ended with an extremely irritated me, I started to examine my response. It seemed to be very nearly involuntary. And it came straight from the gut, almost like a reflex. As if I was conditioned to respond to this person in this manner. I had a flashblack to studying Pavlov’s dogs in a college psychology class. They were conditioned to expect food when a bell rang. The bell would ring, the food would be dispensed and the dogs would salivate. After a time, the sound of the bell triggered the salivation even when there was no food. Now I didn’t take this path much further because frankly comparing myself to a dog wasn’t very appealing J But the message is there – after a period of time, a stimulus, or in this case a person, can cause an automatic, triggered response.
I’d like to say that this is where I make a vow to be a better, more patient, more tolerant member of society. It’s not.
Instead, this is where I tell you about how my train of thought meandered on to where it almost always does. My role as a mommy. My most important role.
I found myself wondering if I have become conditioned to expect certain responses or behaviors from my beans. And, in doing so, if I’m unconsciously creating or encouraging some of these behaviors.
For instance, the Sunshine Bean is my easy one. She always has been. She was an easy baby, an easy toddler and is closing out the preschool years true to form – easily. My husband calls her “Capital D” as in delightful. I refer to her to others – in front of her – as being a very easy child. So I ask myself – is she easy because that’s the way she’s wired or because that’s how I see her and respond to her? I suspect it’s probably a bit of both.
My Pinky Bean on the other hand comes at life differently. She faces it full on and lets you know what she wants. Sometimes this involves being loud. Sometimes it involves having a fit. Other times it’s simply a refusal to give in or give up until she’s reached her goal. There is a lot that is completely fabulous about the way Pinky approaches every day. There is also a lot that is challenging. I find myself referring to her as my toughest one. And I have spent a lot of time pondering again how much of this is Pinky and how much is my conditioned response to her. Am I expecting her to be challenging? Am I expecting push back and less-than-smooth days?
I wouldn't change any of my kids for the world. They are each perfectly themselves and wonderful to their cores. Where Sunshine is easier than Pinky, she could also benefit from a little of Pinky's pluck and determination :) And the Professor might discover something unexpected if he went into new situations with a wide-open welcome like Sunshine does instead of taking the time to observe and analyze first.
So much of who my beans are is determined by how they're wired. But parenting also obviously plays an enormous role in how they grow and develop. In who they really turn out to be.
As this week comes to an end, I find myself wondering what would happen if I tilted my head to the side a bit and looked at my Pinky differently. If I told her – with words and actions – that she is easy, too. That she, too is completely delightful. Because she is. She is also, as she likes to say, “extremely spunky.” But if my expectations of her going in were that things were going to go more smoothly, what might happen?
It’s an experiment I’m going to undertake.