Monday, November 9, 2009


I get frustrated with my child. Way too often. Every now and then I get downright mad, have to go sit in another room and spend a few minutes looking for the cool I have so totally blow, but that doesn't happen much. Mostly it's just that low-level annoyance that results in one carefully enunciated, slightly raised "I mean it" type statement (after, of course, the couple of gentler, kinder requests to get to whatever it is have been ignored). When the 6-year-old won't stop talking about poop and farts despite my repeated requests (he's a boy, after all), or when he adamantly and unreasonably refuses to put on his pajamas, or when we're running late and he's supposed to be getting ready for school but instead he's huddled in a corner in nothing but his underwear playing with some toy, I get really frustrated. I whine out his name and stomp off to another room feeling put upon and annoyed. Frustrated.

If you don't have a child, you're probably thinking, "You really should have more patience; he's just a child, after all." If you do have a child, your thoughts are probably running more along the lines of, "Yeah, that's about right." Frustration is just a fact of parenting. And of many of our relationships, really. Friends, parents, lovers, spouses, siblings, co-workers, bosses - any of these people might annoy and frustrate us, and we just accept this as part of the challenge and joy of having these relationships. (Okay, so we might also ignore our friends, get divorced, quit our jobs, whatever, but just go with me here.)

So I got to thinking, what is frustration? It seems just shy of a bunch of fairly negative emotions - not quite annoyance, not quite anger. I cast about for a definition, and it came to me: it's discomfiture over not being in control. I want things to happen a certain way; they don't happen that way; I get frustrated. Simple.

I don't think of myself as having lots of control issues, but then again I'm human, so that's kind of like a tree saying it doesn't have leaf issues. My control issues may not be as strong as those of some people, but that doesn't mean that they're not there. Or that I won't get frustrated with my control issues!

So when I get frustrated with my child, I'm trying to remember what a wonderful teacher he is for me, what he's helping me learn about acceptance, and love. Now if only he would teach me a little less often...Because, and here's the scary part, I'm a teacher, too, and I'm teaching him how to be frustrated rather than accepting and loving, and those are lessons I definitely need to teach him a little less often.

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