Everest didn’t want to participate this morning in the homeschool Lego engineering class that we’re hosting at our home. He’s been grumbling about the class the last few weeks, and when I ask him about why he gives a smattering of different reasons (too crowded, too loud, too long, etc). But this morning I think the real reason emerged: he doesn’t like gathering all of the pieces in order to make the project.
“I want you to do it, Mommy,” he declared.
“I won’t do it, sweetheart. Part of the class is learning about where all the pieces are and collecting them yourself. You don’t have to participate, but I think you’ll regret it when you see all of the other kids playing with their completed projects.”
He moaned and groaned some more and threw himself dramatically on the floor. I tried to contain my disappointment and let him make his own decision; after all, I’ve seen how excited he’s been about this class, how delighted he was during the week-long introduction we took over the summer, and how his adventures in Lego class spawn other creative ideas after class. I didn’t want him to take the class this morning to please me or to avoid disappointing me. I’ve worked with too many people who have a hard time trusting themselves and one of my foremost parenting goals has been to raise kids with strong self-trust in place. So I wanted the decision to originate inside of him.
Furthermore, Everest has had a lifelong propensity to want others to do for him what he’s fully capable of doing for himself. He’s tended to avoid things that are hard or require him to stretch. I recognized this has an opportunity for him to push himself and do what’s hard so that he could enjoy the end result.
He finally made the choice to collect the parts so he could make the vehicle and play with it. He felt overwhelmed for another minute or so until I said, “Just take it one step at a time. Start with the first set of parts and move on from there.” He followed my suggestion and then he was off and running. Within a few minutes he had finished building the vehicle and was happily playing with it.
If you’re enduring stage one (separation) or stage two (liminal) of a transition right now, I hope you’re hearing the analogy between this story and your story. To use the eighties work-out term, “No pain no gain,” which is to stay that the only we grow to the next level of emotional, spiritual, or physical growth is if we’re willing to endure a painful stage. This is the definition of growth: you must let go of what’s comfortable and familiar in order to experience something new and unfamiliar (which is why most people are so reluctant to change). It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. The real problems arise when the expectation juts up against reality and you find yourself caught in the mindset that says, “Why am I struggling so much during my engagement or pregnancy or settling into a new house? This is supposed to be a happy time.”
So let’s review the story and how it applies to your transition:
1. Change is hard. We all like what’s comfortable and familiar and most people, if they’re honest, don’t want to do the hard work that leads to the payoff. In other words, most of us would prefer someone else to do it for us (make the decision regarding who you’re marrying, schedule a C-section, etc).
2. You might grumble and moan about the work required but in the end you have to take the necessary steps and action involved in your own personal transition.
3. It’s overwhelming to tackle the entire transition at once. That’s why we talk about it in stages and I encourage people to address one issue at a time.
4. No pain no gain. You can’t grow to the next stage (marriage, parenthood, new job, empty nest, retirement) without doing the hard work of letting go of the current stage. No one can do it for you. You will grieve, struggle, kick and scream. You will endure what is known as “the dark night of the soul.” Transitions are hard, especially when they’re approached with consciousness. You will want to run away and escape. But if you want to experience the joy and fulfillment of the next stage, you have no choice but to stay with it.
5. It’s worth it. I promise you. It’s worth it.
Here’s the bottom line: You have push past your resistance (fear) in order to assemble the pieces that will result in hours of Lego fun. And playing with Legos is really, really fun : )