"Wherever you go, there you are" is the title of a book by meditation and mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn. It means that no matter what the circumstances or the environment, you are who you are. You can't leave yourself or your way of seeing life behind.
It's summer, time for vacations and special activities. (This applies to the holiday season, and any other special occasion, too.) You'd think that when you're away everyone will be on their best behavior and appreciative of all they have. Many parents hope and pray, 'Just for these few days, can't the kids just get along? Can't they leave the arguing and attitudes and moodiness at home?"
No, they can't. Remember, wherever you go, there you are. They are who they are, with the same needs, wants and triggers they had at home. We are all challenged in this, more so the kids. They have far less control over their emotions. (Yes, adults have difficulty managing their own emotions, too, but we're focusing on the kids for now.)
Parents have expectations (should I say desires?) for these to be wonderful times, out-of-the-ordinary times that you want to remember with a big smile on your face. You'd love for everyone to appreciate all that is being done for them... And maybe even say so. Sometimes it's not meant to be.
I remember a summer trip to Williamsburg, VA when my kids were about 11 and 15. Things were already falling apart with my son (15). We were hoping that this trip would give everyone a break from the tension and anxiety of our everyday struggles. We weren't able to leave that, or our 'selves' behind, and it was already difficult only a few hours into the drive down there.
My son had left his iPod at home, the one thing that might have taken the edge off for a little while. He and his sister were snapping at each other in the back seat. He had enough attitude for all of us. I became more anxious by the minute, and we had just left home. That was me, taking everything in, panicking, and expecting the worst. (By the way, when you expect the worst, that's often what you get.)
Wherever you go, there you are. Wherever they go, there they are. It's not reasonable to expect perfect behavior. Knowing this, how can you have more reasonable expectations? What would it be like to have a more accepting attitude? Try this on for size.
"Yes, this is a special time and ideally I'd like it to be free of conflict and aggravation. And I also know that we are all human. The kids will get whiny, they'll annoy each other, and that's okay. It's normal. Their behaviors will annoy me, and that's okay, too. How I see it and respond, however, will be different this time.
* I choose to see these as moments in our vacation, not as the defining moments.
* I choose to get out of my own funk more quickly.
* I choose to acknowledge disappointment and let it go with the breeze.
* I choose to focus on appreciating my family.
* I choose to be on the lookout for their best.
* I choose to remember how much fun we really did have.
* I choose... "
I choose. Just saying those words out loud is empowering. They are a reminder that you have the option of enjoying yourself and your family, rather than being a victim. (I guess I didn't focus only on the kids after all.)
Take it from me. I was an expert at being stuck in unpleasantness, and missing out on joy and opportunities. Seeing people, places and events from a position of choice is changing everything. Wherever you go, there you are? Yes, that's true. And when you can accept that and stop judging it, you can get on with a happier life.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life's challenges. FernWeis.com | 201-747-9642