Negotiating with Others

Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond.” – Buddha

Yesterday as I was getting the kids in the car to drive them to school, Mr. D became very upset because I hadn’t picked the right socks. “The dinosaur socks upstairs” he insisted and I went back to scramble for the right ones but when I came back, they still weren’t the right pair.

Now we were going to make Miss O late for school if I continued to hunt for the mythical socks. Mythical in my mind at least because the problem wasn’t the socks, it was that he didn’t want to go to school yet. So I gave Mr. D a choice between monster socks and airplane socks. He chose airplane and when I got them out it started a whole new round of crying, “That’s helicopters.”

Oh, holy hell. It reminded me of a theory my brother passed on to me about relationships when we were in our twenties. Our beliefs about what’s important will always differ from those around us and that’s the topic of my Wise & Shine post this week: Navigating the Gray Area

Shared Activities

Things are always in transition. Nothing ever sums itself up the way we dream about.” – Pema Chodron

On weekdays, my toddler and I have a precious half hour alone together between when I drop his sister at school and when I take him to daycare. What we do in that time is continually changing. First it was going to Starbucks and then sitting outside to eat popcorn. Next it was touring parking garages and then we had a short time where we went to a shopping plaza and rode the outdoor escalators. Currently, we go on the freeway a short distance to check on diggers and construction sites. My mom asked me how I know what a 2-year-old wants to do.

That question makes me think about how we negotiate shared activities with any friend, partner or family member. Generally speaking, don’t we watch what they like to do, check to see if it’s something we’d be willing to do and then ask? It’s why I do yard work with my mom, lunch with my friend Melinda, bike with Eric and hike with Sue.

And what might be more interesting is how we change what we do with people when it no longer suits us. Do we say it directly? Or just make what feels old impossible? Or do we listen to all that isn’t said and somehow negotiate a different pattern?

I answered my mom that I’ve changed up what I do with my son based on the clues he gives me. Sometimes it’s a word, he points at something, gives me a “no” or expresses curiosity. And it’s filtered through what I feel is reasonable and doable.

Every once in a while I feel a shudder of fear for what I’ll do when the thing we are doing doesn’t work any longer. But I get over it when I realize that we are infinitely creative and will work something else out. Once I accept that it will change, I’m much more open to listening to the clues of what we should transition to.

It feels to me like the fertile ground we negotiate with everyone in our lives. It works best when we create a space that interests and engages both parties and that leaves some space for change.