I hate being a parent sometimes — especially when I see my kids make mistakes I should have been better at warning them about. And then I remember: mistakes are unavoidable and loss is impossible to prevent. And only during the aftermath of mistakes and loss do we learn how to deal with it and move on. That I can try to influence.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch them but it necessary to learn how to deal with consequences — like a muscle we have to use to make strong. We have to practice offering ourselves compassion and yet also being hard enough on ourselves not to repeat the action that might threaten again what we have.
Sometimes we take things we have for granted making it is hard to see our blessings after a while, because we get used to them like a salesgirl in a perfume shop numb to even the most pungent things.
Because of our numbness, we forget to appreciate what we have. We are blasé, and we break the rules, and the consequences can be dire. Only when it’s too late does appreciation surface. This is when real lessons are learned.
Kids have to learn this phenomenon of appreciation firsthand. We cannot warn them enough, or explain the feelings of shame and loss that come when we make a mistake, and lose the thing we had that we failed to appreciate. It is a lesson only viscerally experienced to truly understand.
I spent a week recently at a retreat on Mindfulness at the Omega Institute upstate. The class focused specifically on how to build our awareness of ourselves and others directly in relation to education. But the truth is that what the teacher Daniel Rechtschaffen really taught us was how to have compassion for ourselves, and how that very self-compassion might allow us to have compassion for others.
It might as well have been a lesson for parents, or children, or spouses. It might as well have been a lesson for any leaders, or any workers. No matter what side of things you’re on, mistakes will always be made, and how you handle forgiveness of yourself and others is always going to mean a lot for your quality of life.
I hate to be angry at anyone. It happens a fair amount — especially my self-anger — and I have to be vigilant in my practice of forgiveness. I guess that is what is so heartbreaking about seeing my kids get into trouble. I am most afraid of their self-anger building. We have to be with ourselves all the time, and that lack of forgiveness for our actions can be paralyzing. It is important not to gloss over their actions, but it is also important to help them put it into a context where they might understand and forgive themselves and work toward learning how not to repeat actions that are harmful to themselves and others.
Being a parent is not easy. Nor is being a child.
And so it is that we go through these learning experiences, and we understand the necessity of practicing compassion, together.