Recently, my two children and I were out running errands and shopping. To start, my kids really hate shopping. I hear “this is soooo boring mom!” or “I don’t want to go, I just want to sit in the car!” and my all-time favorite from my son: “This is infinity boring and zero fun.” (He’s 6). Ok, I get it, shopping is not all that fun and when it’s a “stay at home day” the kids would much rather play or go outside or something, anything other than go run some errands for 5 hours.
However, their perception of shopping with me is a recipe for disaster while we’re out. I know that I will have to deal with at least one fight between the two of them, some spilled/broken/opened package in the store that I now have to purchase, one melt-down and at least one 10 minute session of begging for some toy, me saying no and subsequently hearing how unfair and mean I am.
Needless to say, this can wear on anyone – quickly. When I’m in the moment, grabbing an item off the shelf, reading the label, really trying to decide whether or not to buy it or something different and my cart suddenly takes off down the aisle at the hands of my four year old, and my six year old is saying “mom! She’s pushing the cart!!” and then hearing the inevitable crash that is the cart knocking things off shelves…. I’m thinking “OMG, seriously! I just want to buy some groceries in peace!”
Here’s where I’ve made a commitment though. I am committed to seeing these instances from a broader perspective because I know it will temper my reaction. If I were to react according to my emotions in that moment, then I would probably go over to my child and speak to her in a way that embarrasses her in public, shames her and makes her feel bad…. But for what? For pushing the cart just like mommy was? There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I’m just annoyed, exhausted and wanting to focus on something else – and she is causing a disruption. Still, she’s done nothing “wrong”.
So when I say a broader perspective, this is what I mean. I will look at my daughter on the timeline of her life. My baby is four. Four years out of the 90 or so that she is going to live is really nothing, in fact, when you put it in that perspective, she’s still a baby. Still learning about life. Same thing will go when she’s 10 or 13 or even 25, just on a different level. I also think about how many precious years I have left of her actually running off with the cart or even going with me to the store. It’s not many, 10 more if I’m lucky.
So in the grand scheme of things, this is just a runaway cart at the hands of a little girl that wants to be like her mommy and help out. She’s beautiful and the moment is precious to me. So what do I do? I have her help me clean up the mess, pick her up and tell her that it’s not safe to push the cart alone since she can’t see where she’s going, but she can help me push it in a minute if she wants.
Now, I’m not perfect. I do have my moments where perspective is lost and I react to the situation that I’m in rather than trying to see the bigger picture. However, I do have a commitment to put my stressful situations into perspective so that I can respond instead of react to them. Here are some other things I ask myself or tell myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed:
- What’s the real issue here? What’s the bigger picture?
- Is this going to matter in a day? 5 days? A year? (most of the time, the real answer is “no”)
- What’s important to me? How do I want to feel when I walk away from this?
- What would someone who loves themselves do?
- This is just 10 minutes out of my entire life.
- It’s only one day, I’ve got this.
- What do I need right now?
I made this commitment to myself as a parent when my son was born in 2008. Since then, actually in 2012, I made this commitment to myself for all areas of my life. This idea of putting things in perspective, of trying to look at the moments of life from a wide angle lens or from high above them, has helped me tremendously in living a life of integrity. I feel good about myself and the choices I make when I use this. It’s become a habit with my kids now and I’m so grateful for that because they mean the world to me and if I can’t role model for them the type of human being I want them to be in the world, then I’m not fulfilling what I consider to be my responsibility to them. I’m also not fulfilling my responsibility to myself if choose a negative perspective of the moments in my life. It is a choice and I choose to see things through the eyes of peace, gratitude and joy as often as I can.