Matthew turned 12 this week. There’s not a birthday that goes by that I don’t thank God that he’s here with us and take more than a minute to celebrate how far he has come. We spent his birthday evening at his brothers volleyball game, but on the way there, through the always hellish LA traffic we watched, (I listened) to videos of him from when he was little. Even our Czech born au pair Tereza, who saved my sanity when she arrived after Matthew’s accident in 2009, literally to follow him around while I got the other three ready, and who is married with a baby of her own now, came with us to celebrate. Such amazing love and connection born out of so many simple memories, carpools, swim practices and snack bags. We laughed all the way to Loyola.
As i watch how far Matthew has come from that little guy that I worried so much about to the kid he is today, I am so proud of the progress he has made. So much speech, OT, PT, diet, doctors, supplements, all sought out with love, not because I believe he needs to be fixed, but because there aren’t many mom’s out there who don’t work to make their child’s day better…and judging by his days at school and even his report card, his are on the upswing. Some people would be frustrated because it’s impossible to know whether there was one thing that helped the most in his progress to date. What I know is that while there has been no silver bullet that completely alleviated all of his struggles, I won’t leave any stone unturned and, because of that, have meet some amazing world changing people that are a part of our tribe forever.
There are things about him growing up that I wish I could change, so I have to teach him by the way I live my own life, and nothing inspires me more to make good decisions than teaching my kids. Last week, I watched Matthew while he was in a volleyball lesson on the beach lose focus and begin to watch the guy walking toward him, and I saw his self consciousness take over. He’s still a beginner in the sport (watch out though, he’s supposed to be 6’8 so when he said he wanted to try beach volleyball, I wasn’t going to say no). During his lesson, he will say things like “I’m not good at this.” or even worse “why do I suck?” He’s just starting, and the thing that matters far more than the way he is passing or serving today, is the way he decides to work and his attitude about his game. The way we talk to ourselves is so important, it gets in so deep and affects the way we feel about ourselves. If that voice in our head isn’t kind, as in Matthew’s case on the beach, we can end up severely limiting our own potential…just with our thoughts. So it breaks my heart to hear him talk like that…on the never-ending to do list is to help him cultivate his own positive self talk.
The other thing that bothered me about Matthew’s moment that I noticed on the beach was how his focus and discipline were affected when he thought someone was observing him, maybe even watching him critically. It made me think: How aware are we of other people’s observations of us? If we are aware, are we right about what we think those observations may be? Do other people’s opinions and observations have a role in the way we make our decisions everyday? These are questions that I think about a lot, that I have coached myself through, as I work through the choices that this challenging and beautiful life presents me. Whenever I am choosing, I seek that calm feeling I get when I make a decision that is aligned with my true self. To paraphrase Daniel Amen from the On Purpose podcast by Jay Shetty I listened to this week,
“when we are 18 we make decisions based on what other people think, when we are 40 we decide we don’t care what other people think, and when we are 60 we realize that other people were never thinking about us that much anyway.”
What gives us the courage to not care about what other people think? To start with, I don’t like the words “not care” because I find it hard not to care about just about every person that crosses my path, so I prefer to say not let other’s opinions affect my decisions for my own life. What has changed in my thinking though, is my understanding that we are all operating from our own viewpoint, managing our own ego, and that our opinions are relative to our own situation. So, why should I make a decision based on anyone else’s opinion when it has little, if anything to do with my life, and is generally a function of what is going on in their life. I can have compassion and understanding without letting their opinion about my life be bigger than my own. With this decision, I have had the confidence to live my life as as the truest version of myself today and, instead of aiming to please everyone, which left me drained, I’ve learned to just be me and end up pleasing the right people, those meant for my life, on this day. This way of thinking comes with heavy responsibility. For success to happen we have to keep seeking the truest version of us, wrestle with and admit our struggles, and emerge stronger because we did the hard work. The more time we spend understanding ourselves, the more we understand what decisions are in our own best interest and the less time we spend feeling self conscious about our lives, our abilities and our choices. That battle can be tough, for me it’s come in the form of putting my voice out into the world, learning to set boundaries, and having the courage to show up as the truest version of myself. Not a day has gone by though, even when I’m feeling uncomfortable, that I don’t get the deepest satisfaction from the growth I know I’m experiencing my putting my real self out there. Day in and day out, I hope with all of my heart that my example sinks in with my kiddos.
Which brings me lovingly back to my youngest boy. You are comparable to no one. You have proven how hard you can work, keep working for that consistency. Know that excuses and blame get you nowhere, I have so much hope and commitment that you will never see that from me. There are so many great waves, games and summer days ahead of you, however they present themselves…go after them with confidence and yes, there will always be a mom who has your back.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there…hardest and best job in the world.