A little while ago the Woods clan went to an open house for the summer camp my kids are now attending. My wife had told the kids that they could swim that day, but that did not quite turn out as expected. They could swim, but the pool was open to the public that day (Saturday), we would have to stay after (it was not a part of the open house, but my head and shoulders were on fire towards the end), and pay for it where it was
free included in the camp fees during the week (um, no). My 14 year old took it in stride, but the younger 2 bellyached and generally gave my wife a hard time throughout. This irked me, but I waited for the proper time to address the matter (aka no witnesses). During the course of the tour my kids got 3 surprises. They would be able to go:
- to the BB gun range
- canoeing for a little bit
- horseback riding
A pretty sweet deal I thought. But as we were leaving, and I was assessing the impact of my lack of sunblock, the younger 2 started in again about swimming. Then things get blurry for a few moments after the rubber band in my head that had been wound tight by their earlier whining snapped. Even polite whining sets me off as I have a strict NWA policy. No Whining Allowed. As a young adult I would disband the BMC committees (B*&%#/Moan/Complain) in my life. Instead state your request in a calm manner, and accept the decision handed down with respect if you ever hope to get your next request considered. Whining makes my teeth itch. My wife is a sweetheart and wanted to consider paying for the pool, but that was shut down on GP. The general principle that whining not be rewarded. A few things I remember from the Ralph L. Woods approved lecture on the short ride back to civilization:
- Rules 1-5: Do not disrespect your mother. Repeat.
- Honor the sacrifice being made for you. Summer camp is not a birth right and is most definitely not free. I then informed them that my summer camp consisted of a house key, a stocked refrigerator, cable, and strict instructions not to leave the premises. And I loved it.
- Lastly I admonished them to keep a proper perspective. You may not be able to control every situation, but you can choose to perceive it properly. This ended with the questions:
” Shall you focus on the three things you got to do that you did not expect to do, or the one thing you thought you would do, but did not? Will you focus on the few things that did not go as you had planned, or the hidden gifts you did not even know enough to ask for?”
They are wonderful children, but every once in a while they stray and I need to remind them how wonderful they are so they can find their way back. Soon after the moderate volume and polite tone rant subsided my kids freely gave their apologies, we gladly accepted them and we carried on with our day. One of the greatest gifts my father gave me was the example of calm and politeness even in the midst of outrage. If my Dad ever raised his voice I would likely fall over from shock. Plus not blowing my top saves heck on therapy bills down the road.
The boomerang Dadism I reference at the top? One thought stuck with me throughout the day:
“Will you focus on the few things that did not go as you had planned, or the hidden gifts you did not even know enough to ask for?”
Even as an adult I still struggle with properly setting my perspective from time to time. This was a reminder I could also appreciate. Even as I look back over the low point of my adult life years ago the good far outweighed the bad. It is just hard to see at times. The bad made the most noise, but the good was always there quietly hiding in plain view. The question is what will we focus on? Plans are good, but do not plan so much of your life that you leave no room for the unexpected. Do not plan so much that you plan the joy of the unexpected out of life. Years ago I moved to the NYC area with a 2 point agenda:
- Make as much money as possible in 3 years before moving to NC, my Mom’s home state, to settle down.
That was my plan as far as I knew it. But thank God I left room in my plan for an unforseen gift. My wife. My 3 year plan turned in to a 9 year plan and we found ourselves settled down in NC as a family unit. Same end. Different path. We met in Bay Plaza Bally’s in Co-Op City, the Bronx. The last place on earth I would have expected. When the hidden gift I did not even know enough to ask for appeared I was present enough to see it.
We still must plan. A plan is what propels us forward as the next steps are revealed. It has it’s place. But, if I had ‘stuck’ to the plan obsessively a better way would have passed me by. My plan was necessary to put me in the right place to realize my unplanned gift.
” Shall you focus on the things and lessons you did get that you did not expect to, or the few things you thought you would, but did not?”