The recent Christmas holiday left me awash in a wave of nostalgia for the time when my own children were little and living at home.
I am content with my capacity as a grandma, but it does take some getting used to. No longer in charge of the day’s festivities, it is now my place to play a supporting role, to be flexible about the time we have dinner, to get parental approval before buying gifts, to coordinate with other families and their contributions to the celebration. Not an easy task for a control freak used to being responsible for everything.
One of the aspects I don’t miss from those long-ago Christmases when my husband and I were young parents is the frantic last-minute search for the particular toy du jour that every kid wanted.
Luckily, my boys did not get caught up in the Cabbage Patch frenzy of the 1980s, but I can remember some frenetic quests for He-Man and Optimus Prime.
This was in the days before online searches were a thing, of course. There were no websites with up-to-date inventories showing how many items were on the shelves of toy stores.
I remember phoning every store I could think of to find these toys, then, when I finally found a store with one item left, begging the sales associate to hold it for me and making a mad dash, hoping all the while it would be there when I arrived 20 minutes later.
Now I think “Why?”
Why was it so important? Would this toy fulfill some deep-seated need in one of my children? Show my kids the depth and breadth of my love for them? Give them an increased sense of security, stability, belonging? Help them get into the college of their choice?
I am reminded of “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein. In this book, a Pac Man-like circle with an absent wedge searches for his missing piece, thinking he will be happy forever if only he could locate it.
Of course, after the circle finds his missing piece, he is no happier than before; in fact, he is less satisfied, because now he quickly rolls past things that previously gave him pleasure like watching a butterfly or smelling a flower.
It makes me wonder how many of us are still searching for our missing piece.
When we believe we would be happy if only we possessed a certain object, a bigger house, a fancier car, an exciting new toy, we forfeit our present well-being.
Some of us believe joy is to be found only through a relationship with another person working out exactly the way we want it to. We envision an ideal bond and will move heaven and earth in an attempt to force the relationship into the shape we have imagined.
The problem with this mindset is that we each are responsible for our own happiness. You can’t get it from another person, even a beloved one. When we give another person that power, we are abdicating our responsibility to ourselves.
When we find ourselves obsessing over one person, this is the perfect time to ask what it is we believe we need from this person, then go about satisfying that need.
Do you need confidence? Approval? Courage? Fun? Love?
Ask yourself what you can do to give yourself whatever it is you need.
Then be open to adjusting your attitude, to unfolding your heart, to accepting the possibilities that life will bring your way. Because learning about yourself is always a good thing and self-acceptance brings peace, which is attractive to others.
Trust that an amazing relationship will find you when the time is right. Love can come from any direction at any time, even (especially?) when we least expect it.
Now that I think about it, maybe those toy searches for long-ago Christmas toys were more for me than the kids. Maybe I was trying to give my boys joy, which I now know is impossible. Each of them must find their own happiness. It can’t be found in a He-Man.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
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