Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The art of not being bothered


After our last dust-up in August, which I wrote about obliquely on this blog, I made a conscious decision to treat my son differently, to not insist on so much, to let him be whoever he was being in each moment without needing him to be any different, to not let him push my buttons so much and instead to smile and let it float over me, to not take everything so seriously, as if each interaction was a battle of wills I had to win. I decided I didn't need to prove I was right all the time. I didn't even need to be right all the time. In short, I resolved to follow his father's example and just let him be.

It has been so much easier between us. He's less snarky, less irritable, and even pushes my buttons less. I know this is because I changed myself in the situation. I had no expectation that he would change himself in response, and I was okay with that. But he did change his way of interacting with me. I wasn't sure he even noticed I was no longer picking battles with him about the messiness of his room, about clearing the dishwasher, about throwing the couch cushions everywhere. What do those things even matter in the grand scheme of things? Nothing, I decided. Now, if the sight of his room ruffles my calm, I close his door. Turns out he did notice. We talked about it in passing but didn't belabor things. I think he's grateful for my new stance.

Yesterday he and his dad moved Aunt Winnie's couch and recliner to my cousin's house, and moved my cousin's old broken furniture out as well. They also helped her clear some of Gary's possessions, like his Nordic track and clothes she's donating to a homeless outreach. Like his dad, my son is a kind and generous man, a hard worker, very organized. But perhaps he and I are just too much alike, both so high strung, tending to anxiety and the need to control. I relaxed the controlling streak in myself, at least as it pertains to him, and he relaxed, too, became his good humored and goofy self most of the time, and in those moments when he just doesn't want to be bothered, I let him be, because after all, not being bothered sometimes is a human right.

How I love this boy. He starts his new job on Monday, his first salaried job in a management role with benefits, and an office, and a title that pleases him. He is not yet at the age where titles don't matter, because when you're 23 and setting yourself up for what comes next I suppose they do still matter. I'm happy for him.

And no, I'm not going to mention the Republican-controlled Senate this morning, and the fact that the logjam in Congress will now only get worse. I'm practicing the art of not being bothered.


23 comments:

  1. A perfect example of not being able to change anyone but ourselves. Yes. Eventually some of us do learn this.
    I adore your son. And you.

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    1. Ms. Moon, it took me long enough! But he's grown now. Anything I haven't yet managed to instill he will have to come to on his own. I adore him, too. And you. :)

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  2. good for you...it's so hard to pull back. we love them so much, we don't know where our skin ends and theirs begins.
    i still wrestle with this, but less so; we (he and i) have both matured, are more comfortable inhabiting our own skins all by ourselves :)

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    1. sorry for being so narcissistic. i sound like a dithering idiot. i immediately related your experience to my own, with my son. you are so articulate about all the hard emotional work you have done, please know that i deeply admire it.

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    2. Darling Susan, be gentle with yourself. Your comment felt in no way narcissistic! It felt the very opposite of that—warmly empathetic. The voices in our heads can be so unruly! I second guess myself like this all the time, so please know I understand, but you have nothing at all to apologize for; rather i am deeply grateful for your generosity and your friendship. My love to you, dear friend.

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  3. One must most definitely NOT mention the Senate when practicing the art of not being bothered. Kudos to you on your new outlook. I believe that every year in the 20s is a milestone.

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    1. Denise, my twenties seem like another lifetime now, and yet it also feels as if it happened just yesterday. And here I am, NOT mentioning the Senate. ;)

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  4. You're a model mother, and your son is the natural outgrowth or product of that. Plus, ya'll are all so dang beautiful! And I do love how you snuck in that last part.

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    1. Elizabeth, hardly a model mother! Oh my, my children would have a field day with that one!

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  5. I'm practicing that discipline right along with you. I wonder if this is how those living in oppressive regimes cope. Live my life and ignore their hate as much as I can. A very wise wife of a pediatrician gave me two very valuable insights when I was very young. Toys are not dirt and close the door and pretend the teenager's room is not part of the house. I appreciate her experience. I have switched blogs. please click on my name to find my new blog.

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    1. Lisa, that's an interesting thought about how those in oppressive regimes cope. I love your pediatrician's advice! Clicking your name now...

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  6. Bravo for your son and the new job! Do titles really ever not matter? I always enjoyed my title, back when I had one. :)

    I have to co-exist the same way with Dave about some things. He is not as neat as I am, and I do nearly all the house maintenance. But I've just decided that's the way things have settled between us and I make an effort not to nag him about it. (With varying degrees of success!) Of course the dynamics ARE different with a spouse than a child...

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    1. Steve, I think it might be easier if it's your spouse. With my son I had to get past the leftover feeling that I was supposed to be teaching him good habits. Well, he's grown now. Whatever lessons he missed will have to be learned on his own. But for both spouse and child, it's so much easier to not sweat the small stuff. Especially when they're so good on the stuff that really matters.

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  7. Oh I've missed talking to you here, and you've been through so much and I am going through so much the same with my daughter, every conversation not in text form becomes a negative emotional experience, goes so wrong, and for many of the same reasons as yours. I am constantly pushing, and afraid to let go and trust that she will take care of things to my satisfaction. Forget about the room too, it's a disaster and apparently a common thing, based on a random sampling of her friends...
    I am going to use your wise words to help guide me through this next phase of letting go and letting things be better, while hopefully, somehow, getting some of what I need done as well. Those couch cushion issues? Oh I'm feeling like Cinderella picking up after a messy grown ass child :) I keep worrying that she'll make her college roommate crazy or they will both live in filth.... I
    hope they know someday and can remember that all this pushing and tension is born of love and care and worry, because my daughter so often hears only the nagging. Thank goodness for the occasional hugs to fix the things we can't say right.
    And your son is a fine man, and congrats to him on the new job! Your family has dealt with so much lately, it's no wonder things don't exactly feel easy, or that you struggle with finding the right path or the right words. And the parent child dynamic is so hard when they are on the cusp of adulthood and independence, yet still need us, and us them. Thanks for the hopeful words, and the cheap therapy session. xxoo

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    1. Mel, I remember so well the months before my daughter went away to college when my preternaturally even tempered girl became so cranky and oppositional; once she went away to school all was well again, and belatedly I realized that it's so scary for them, contemplating leaving home, wondering if they will make friends, how they will manage, missing us, and when we nag them it just adds to their secret fear of inadequacy, which of course they find to be unfounded once they actually spread their wings. Meanwhile we're trying to instill everything we think they'll need to function on their own and we worry too about them leaving. Your daughter is in 12th grade, right? Maybe you're in that passage now and it's so hard. But everything will be okay. Relax if you can. She's such a good girl. You did so well with her. She's going to be just fine, and messy dorm rooms are not the end of the world. Hugs, sweet friend.

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  8. I may have to take a leaf out of your book, as they say. My 19 year old (currently taking a year off so still at home) is doing all those things. He has a job and is working hard, but it's odd hours, meaning he sleeps till noon, lies about the place then disappears. Meanwhile his room looks like we've been burgled and there are coffee cups all over the place. I try not to say anything but when it impinges on everyone else in the house I have to remind him.... Sigh.
    As for that Senate, well, at least I have UK/US citizenship if it gets too bad LOL.

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    1. Expat mom, maybe if all our kids are doing the same thing it might just be a stage of life. i bet when they have their own homes they'll suddenly become neater. One would hope!

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  9. This makes me feel like crying, a bit, in a good way. Sometimes I get so caught up in those little things--more with my spouse than with my children. I tend to clash more with Ayla because we also are so alike. I read this book called The Conscious Parent and she talked about the importance of saying, "I accept my child is ___". (Fill in the blank--loud, messy, imperfect, anxious, so much like me, heh.) I do that sometimes and it helps a lot. I'm trying to practice what you are practicing.

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    1. V, it is such a relief to just accept your child as he or she is! Or anyone really. It's so freeing not needing them to be any different than they are. I do think we have a harder time with the ones in whom we see ourselves. I think maybe we want to save them from what we go through, lol!. Love to you, dear friend.

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  10. Glad to hear that things are better between you and your son. Also, congratulations to him on starting his new job. Can I tell you, I absolutely love the photograph of the leaves above. So much rich color. It's just beautiful as are you.

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    1. Andrea, i love that photo, too! Thanks for the kindness. xo

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  11. How I envy not being bothered...I am disgusted though hardly surprised at the outcome of these elections...How are you feeling otherwise?

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    1. e, i think the only way to not be bothered is to bury one's head in the sand, figuratively speaking. Of course, that can only last so long...xo

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