Me, Skillfully Demonstrating What Not To Do

Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW

An unnamed twelve year old year old boy I happen to share DNA with has entered a phase that can only described as Complains-about-Every-Single-Thing.

This morning for instance, he complained that the cookie bar I packed for his lunch was larger than yesterday’s cookie bar, clear proof that yesterday I robbed him.  He complained that he had to do his morning chore as per usual instead of yesterday when I let the boys skip their morning chore due to the challenges of waking up early for daylight savings.  When I drove the kids to school so that they wouldn’t have to carry their musical instruments three blocks, he complained that I stopped the car directly across the street from the school instead of entering the parking lot round about.

All this, before 8:30a.m.

It was at this, third-ridiculous-complaint breaking-point that I let out a shriek and used two words I do not recommend in anyone’s vocabulary. “Shut up!” I said. Okay… I yelled.

When I pick my children up from school today I have some repair work to do. First I will apologize for losing my temper and for saying “shut up”– words I do not allow them to use. Then I will ask for forgiveness.

We all make mistakes. We make them in interpersonal relationships, in school or work, and in large and small ways throughout our entire lives. It is vitally important that we remember: we all make mistakes.

Emotional wellbeing is not the result of achieving perfection or personal excellence. Wellbeing comes from loving ourselves totally enough to accept our imperfection, which then allows us to love and accept those imperfect beings all around us. Self love and acceptance of imperfections supplies us with both the capacity for and the moral obligation to take responsibility when we make mistakes.

This is the heart of repair: By taking personal responsibility for our mistakes, we show up in our relationships, in our jobs, and in our lives as humble, teachable humans. We acknowledge what we have done wrong, ask for forgiveness and move on. We make new choices the next time a similar set of circumstances occur.

And one thing we can rest assured of: those circumstances, the challenging, finger-nails-on-the-chalkboard moments in which we made the mistake to begin with, WILL reoccur. The universe is really generous in allowing us to rinse and repeat a lesson until it’s good and learned.

Which means tomorrow or next week or next month, my kiddo will be complaining about something I find utterly ridiculous. And I will get the opportunity (Please God help me!) to calmly say, “Can you notice something positive instead of complaining?”

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