Driver’s Test

I was driving to work one day when it happened. I was near a tunnel entrance and decided to change lanes. I put my blinker on, checked my mirrors, looked over my left shoulder to make sure I had plenty of room, and then moved over. The car I pulled in front of clearly did not like my decision to change into their lane. They weren’t going especially fast prior to me changing lanes, and they didn’t run up on me, so how did I know they were upset? Because they threw on their high beams, and kept them on for the next three miles. The first chance to pass me, they did. They pulled up beside me and attempted to get my attention. I decided it would be best not to make eye contact, because I figured it would only make things worse. After the driver realized I wouldn’t take the bait, they sped off. I still have no idea what I did to provoke such a reaction.

I reflected on my decision to change lanes earlier. Had I done something wrong?  I had plenty of room to change lanes I checked a couple of times prior to moving over. What was I missing?

Then I thought I wonder what’s been happening with that other person today.  Did they have a rough night of sleep, or are they stressed out about a meeting, or did they get into an argument with a loved one before leaving?  I don’t know what caused them to get so upset, but I have to believe their mood didn’t have much to do with me. I think my lane change was their last straw.

I think about myself as a driver. While I like to think of myself as a calm and compassionate person most of the times, I must admit that gets tossed out the window when I get cut-off or have a bad encounter with another driver. I sometimes think is this some sort of test (of my patience)? It feels like I’m being purposely disrespected or dismissed, like the other person believes they are entitled, or that their needs or wants are more important than mine. And perhaps I’m onto something with this belief, but think it’s only a small part of it.

Prior to having children, I would mutter four-letter words under my breath or make hand gestures below the dashboard when I got in these situations.  It was my way of getting some of the frustration or anger out, without making the situation worse. Since having kids I’ve had to rethink my responses. Kids are constantly watching what we do. Sometimes when a drive does something I don’t like I’ll say, “Come on friend” to which my sons will ask, “who are you talking to? They’re not your friend?” I’ll explain that it helps mom calm down when she talks about someone as her friend. I’ll also try to explain what’s going on. “I’m frustrated because I want to get home and this person is holding us up. It’s not their fault, they might just be having a bad day.” Having this conversation with my kids requires me to practice patience, being aware of my actions and words, and using it to teach—not always easy to do.

I’m not sure how much I’m getting through to my kids, but I’m hoping that they are able to handle traffic a little bit better than I do when they get older. My sense is people will continue to cut each other off, and drivers will continue to get frustrated with one another.  I can’t control what others do, but I can certainly control my actions and prepare my children for how to deal with drivers when they encounter similar situations in the future.

Thank goodness they won’t be ready for their drivers licenses for many more years. I still have time.

How do you handle frustrating drivers?

Cup of Life

My oldest son raced through the door one day after school, threw his backpack on the floor, and turned to me and said, “Don’t forget to come watch me dance tomorrow at the assembly.” What dance? What assembly? What are you talking about? I thought. He hadn’t mentioned anything about learning a dance or about an assembly until that afternoon. I quickly emailed some of the classroom parents to see what they might know. Sure enough a note quickly came back confirming my son, along with his class, would be doing a dance during the afternoon assembly the following day.

Oh no, I thought, what am I going to do? I’ve got a job. I’ve got commitments. I’ve got meetings! I tried to let my son gently know that I would try my best to be at his assembly the next day, but I had commitments that I had made, and responsibilities I needed to keep. He looked at me as seriously as I’ve ever seen him look and say, “Mom, I know you’ll make it.” I knew the assembly meant a lot to him, and even though I wish I’d had more warning, I knew I’d have to give it my best shot. After a couple of deep breaths, I logged onto my computer and saw that I had a window of time that coincided with when the assembly would be and would be able to attend after all. What a relief!

I arrived at his school and watched as his class came in. He met my eyes and got the biggest smile on his face. He signaled a “thumbs up” and I gave him one in return. It turned out not only was his class performing, but all the classes in his school were performing, it was quite a treat. Each class danced to a different song and style of music. Their routines allowed members of each class to show their individual dance style. My son’s class danced to Ricky Martin’s “Cup of Life.” The song’s chorus concludes with Ale Ale Ale, a with music and cheering at sporting events, like ole. It’s a celebratory phrase commonly associated with music and sporting events. I thought the phrase was perfect for my son and his class’s performance.

It was rewarding to see these kids who danced without inhibition. They all wanted to do a good job, you could see the concentration on their faces, but you could also see the joy, and fun they were having. Each class cheered the other on. It was quite a display of support and encouragement.

As my son’s class danced so energetically to their song, I thought, this is what life is all about—working together, playing together, enjoying each other without worrying about being judged, or made fun of–it truly captured what life, or the cup of life, is and should be.

Ale ale ale

Survive and Advance

ESPN’s 30 for 30 is currently airing “Survive and Advance.” It is the story of Coach Jim Valvano and his 1983 NC State Wolfpack team who won the highly coveted NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship against all odds. It’s a gripping story about a coach who had an amazing gift for connecting and teaching others lessons that transcend the game of basketball and applied to how to live your life. Jim Valvano, also known as Jimmy V, received a diagnosis of cancer and sadly passed away in 1993. Twenty years later he continues to inspire.

The title of this documentary is perfect. Coach Valvano and his team survived many close games, often coming back from behind right at the very end, to advance to the next round towards their ultimate goal—a championship.  Its clear in the documentary that while luck may have played a part, there was a lot more to it and that was Coach V. Coach Valvano believed in his team with a passion, he believed that he would win a championship and that his team would win a championship. He had this dream, and felt so strongly about it he had his team practice cutting down the nets so they would know what it felt like. He shares that he knew how difficult it would be to win a championship, but that his father had given him a great gift—a  belief in him that he could do anything. Wow, I thought, what an amazing gift. When the diagnosis of cancer came, he fought it with the same belief that he could do anything, he would beat this. He went to great lengths to survive and advance (live) every possible day. Towards the end of his battle the Jimmy V Foundation was set-up to raise money to beat (cure) Cancer.  The motto of the Jimmy V Foundation is “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

This story really spoke to me as a parent. When our child is born, we go into survival mode. It can sometimes feel like a struggle to make it to the next day.  But over time as we get more comfortable with our abilities we advance, and are given the awesome task of shaping our child into an amazing, capable human being.  We can inspire our children, get them to dream, and give them confidence in themselves by showing them we believe in them. We can support them as they grow, teach them and guide them to never ever give up, on their dreams or themselves.

Thank you Coach Valvano for being such an inspiration.

How do you inspire? How do you dream? How do you survive and advance?

Corrective Lens and Seeing What’s Right in Front of Us

When I took my son into a doctor’s office, the doctor inquired what brought us there. I proceeded to share my concerns, what I thought was wrong with my son.  My son hadn’t been experiencing symptoms that required immediate medical intervention, but seemed behind in some of his fine motor skills, which concerned me.

Once I was done listing off all of my concerns, the doctor asked, “What does your son do well?” While I had easily listed off all the things I thought he was struggling with, it took me a while (probably a minute—but it felt like several) to answer to her question.

I realize both my children have many wonderful qualities and characteristics, but was reminded that human nature conditions us to look for what is wrong in one another. The doctor’s question forced me to think about what is right.

As I discussed what I’d learned with friends, I was reminded that we experience people differently when we look for what their strengths are, gifts are, or what they are good at vs. what is different about them, lacking or a deficiency. I thought about my children and how I experience them. If I’m being honest, as much as I’m amazed at their capabilities, I am also looking at behavior that needs to be corrected, areas that need to be learned or actions that need to be addressed.  With new eyes, much like corrective lens, I see my children in a new way. Each child has his own gifts, talents, and capabilities. They are a delight and a wonder to experience, some I experience more fully and gives me even more joy when I shed my need to find something within them that needs to be fixed. They are spectacular just the way they are. Why did it take me so long to see what was right in front of me?

I realize I will have to have an awareness of what lens I’m viewing my children with everyday.  My husband and I will need to continue to guide our children in their journey of becoming adults, but I suspect with my new vision there will be far fewer things I identify that need to be fixed and far more things I learn about the many gifts and talents my children possess.

I wish I had gotten these glasses a long time ago.

What does your child do well? How do you experience them everyday?