Sight word of the day: Look. I am a mom volunteer, and my table of kindergarteners reach and scramble to grab the best crayons for “rainbow writing,” outlining the letters of the word over and over again.
As we practice, I can’t help but notice how preoccupied some students become with getting just the right crayon: “I want the red one” or “That one is broken” and “I had it first.” Most amusing is the repeated phrase these wise five-year-olds offer their peers in response: “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” Hmmm…perhaps they have heard these words a time or two. I certainly appreciate the reminder.
As mothers, it is sometimes difficult not to compare ourselves to others or to feel slighted that life hasn’t turned out just the way we had envisioned. But what rings true for teaching Kindergarteners cooperation and self-control is certainly true for grown-ups as well: You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. Remembering this simple phrase from childhood helps me be less grabby—not over crayons but rather my life’s circumstances.
First, you get what you get. Life hands each of us a unique set of experiences. Some are brimming with joy while others feel crowded with struggle and even pain. Mine are packaged perfectly for my growth and learning, so why do I feel somehow robbed that I didn’t get the best-case scenario? Of course I didn’t really want the broken_______ (fill in the blank: family, relationship, finances, or dream). Sure I would like to trade my shapely body for a slighter version or my shortcomings for another’s strengths. Stubby crayons and dull colored pencils aren’t nearly as inviting as fresh ones with a point. I like a sharpened pencil and full pink eraser as much as the next student.
Yet, this is my life—delightful, wrinkled, haphazard, and full. Complete with unmet expectations and high hopes. I have a bright plaque on my bedroom wall that greets my eyes when I wake up. It encourages in funky letters, “Believe in today, your life is now.” My children are growing and learning and needing me. Do I really want to be consumed with wishing I had someone else’s “perfect” life while my children live fully in this phase? Making peace with the ups and downs of life as they come grants more peace and contentment with what is.
So, whatever crayon you were given–be it broken, stubby, unwrapped, or not the precise color you were expecting–take that crayon and color like you mean it!
Second is simply “don’t throw a fit.” Now I am all about throwing a good tantrum every once in a while. I have stomped my foot, shaken my fists, hollered in my garage, or had a good locked-bathroom cry more times than I would like to admit. What I mean is we all know our weaknesses and the things that trigger us to feel discouraged. Don’t go there! Making comparisons may be a tripwire for some or dwelling on the things that do not seem right or fair may invite another’s despair. As anyone who has been through toddler tantrums can attest, a little attention can send them soaring into full hysterics. Sometimes it is best not to fuel the fire.
I have a seemingly perfect neighbor who confesses the things she isn’t good at and acknowledges how it helps her appreciate others’ abilities. A spunky lady I know drums up fun and service to distract herself from her troubles. Another great friend has told me more than once in the early mornings as we pound the pavement how she refuses to go down the path of negative thoughts about herself or her life because she knows she will end up feeling miserable and defeated.
Deciding not to “throw a fit” about our circumstances frees up our energy to persevere and gain from the experiences we grow through. We can grow brave or brash, better or bitter. It is really up to us.
Lastly, like that clever little sight word of the day, l-o-o-k for the good in life. In accepting our realities, the things we have and things we have not, choosing what we see can make all the difference. If we look for what is lacking, we will surely come up with a list.
Another lesson my kindergartener came home knowing was from the “star-bellied sneeches.” Remember Dr. Seuss’ whimsical tale? One group prided themselves on the stars they had, which caused the other sneeches to feel left out. At this point a sneaky entrepreneur comes on the scene with a machine that gives stars, then takes away stars when the first group doesn’t feel special anymore. By the time they are done, every sneech is all spangled and star studded…or not, but they realize it just doesn’t matter.
Each sneech learns to see its own special-ness. So I may not have the ideal ______(fill in your blank), but I am blessed, strong, and capable in other areas. Challenges may come, but I can nourish my mind, body, and spirit to cope the best I can. We all have issues, but we do not have to let them define (or limit) who we are. We are more than the stars on our bellies or the scars on our hearts, and we can choose what we focus on as we evaluate our lives.
I suppose back-to-school isn’t just about school supplies, books, and new shoes. Kindergarten walls may be strung with sticky crepe paper art projects and crooked writing samples illustrated with stick people, but don’t be fooled—there is great wisdom in the works. As their little motto, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit,” teaches me, I can let go of the stiff expectations I have for my life and clasp what is. With practice, over and over, I may even see my flaws and mishaps as learning curves. And if I choose to let a bit of sunshine permeate my attitude and outlook, life just may start getting brighter. Perhaps we could all use a lesson in acceptance and optimism…it isn’t always as easy as ABC.
QUESTION: What are some triggers that lead you to discouragement or feeling dissatisfied with your present circumstances?
CHALLENGE: Give yourself some positive feedback! Brainstorm 10 ways you are striving to believe in today and looking for the good in your life.
Coloring photo by Molly Hunter Photography. Other photos courtesy of the author.
Article originally posted on January 30, 2013.