The people I talk to all day long are struggling – either as parents or 2e adults. Something, or maybe seemingly everything, is hard. They wonder, “How and when will this get easier?” “Why don’t I know what to do?” “What do I need to make this better?” They just want peace and calm.
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m not sure it ever does get easy, it just gets different.
When clients talk about their struggles and frustration, when they feel like throwing their hands up in the air or find themselves wallowing in wonder over how things will change, I ask them somewhat of a rhetorical question. “You know that place we all hope for – that magical time when suddenly everything falls into place, when we know what to do and feel competent, when everything is easy, when you’re riding the plateau and you no longer have the rollercoaster of ups and downs, when you don’t have to ask for help?” They all nod and get a hopeful, wistful look in their eyes. Then I drop the hammer. “That’s not life, that’s the afterlife!”
Life is the struggle. It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it that matters.
Bummer, you’re thinking. But I say no! It’s a privilege to walk through this life raising a 2e child and being a 2e person. It’s hard, that’s for sure. But what would be the purpose of going through life when everything is easy? I know you’re saying, “I’d love it if everything was easy. I’m okay with that!” Bear with me, I think the life struggle is a blessing. It’s what makes us grow and learn and it’s how we can make a difference.
Sometimes my youngest comes home and tells me all the things he did well in school, and how he knew a lot about what the teacher was talking about…and I always say, “School is not for showing what you know, it’s for learning what you don’t know!” What would be the purpose of going to school if you already know everything? Life is like that. We are here to learn. We are here to share. We are here to be there for others who are struggling and to help them feel okay in their struggle. But to do that, we have to be kind to ourselves and be there for ourselves when we are struggling.
What does all this mean? How can you suddenly be okay with your challenges and be kind to yourself? Take a second and think about your BIG PICTURE GOALS. What matters to you? What do you hope for? Once you have those lofty goals in mind, look at your daily actions and interactions and ask yourself whether those actions are serving those goals. If you want more empathy in the world, when you get frustrated, do you show empathy to yourself and others? If you want to keep learning, do you seek out challenges and take academic risks? If you want your child do be more successful socially, are you role modeling healthy communication and interaction strategies? If you want people to treat you with kindness, if you want your children to demonstrate kindness, are your actions steeped in kindness? I think kindness may appear on the endangered species list so this goal is very close to my heart. How can we be kind in an unkind world?
So often we judge ourselves and are our harshest critic. We don’t afford ourselves, or the ones we love the most, the benefit of the doubt. Why? Why do we have such damning expectations for ourselves and those we love? Can we have high expectations but do so with kindness and empathy? Can we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt we wish others would?
Yep, life is hard. Every day presents challenges that we have to find ways to face. How can we do it with grace? For the parent of a 2e child, we might grapple with similar challenges as our children, and therefore we think we are protecting them from the pain we experienced as kids. But when we swoop in, we rob them of their agency – of taking control over their own situation. If you have the benefit of lived experience, focus on asking your child what they can do differently, instead of telling them what to do. The difference allows them to problem solve in ways that are meaningful and authentic to who they are. While they may be similar to you or experience similar situations, their lens is different.
As a 2e adult if you experience difficult social interactions or you often feel misunderstood – give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume the same challenges or mistakes will happen again. Avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy by trusting; trust yourself to express your needs and perspective in a way that will be understood by others. Trust that others are doing their best. What do you have to lose by changing your pattern of assumptions?
Someone dear to me once said, “The most important thing is to live your life without regrets.” Easier said than done, right? But when you pause and think about that – living life without regrets – and you attach it to setting goals, a formula emerges. Your goals plus actions that stay true to those goals equals a life without regrets. That is, unless your goals are wrong, or you forget to change or shift your goals as your life’s journey shifts and changes.
Goals + Actions (true to those goals) = No regrets
So, if you are looking for a way to reduce regrets – regrets over things you’ve said or not said, regrets over things you’ve done or not done, regrets over risks you didn’t take because you were scared, regrets over risks you did take that weren’t attuned to your needs – then it’s time to contemplate and write down your goals.
Goals might look like these for parent of 2e kids:
- Accept my child for who he is today
- Make our home the safe space for our child
- Teach my child that her feelings matter
- Teach my child that my feelings matter
- Keep my child’s love of learning alive
Goals for 2e adults might look like these:
- Look for work in areas that matter to me
- Ask for help in areas that are hard for me
- Spend time with people who make authentic me feel good about myself
- Do something in my passion area every day
- Incorporate self-care in my day so I have more resilience for the hard stuff
If you pause when you are triggered, scared, confused, frustrated, or feel ill-equipped to handle what is happening, keeping your goals front and center can help you respond in a way that leaves you with no regrets. There isn’t a peaceful place where everything is easy in our conscious world. But kindness, understanding, forgiveness, and confidence in yourself will help you be okay with that and move through you moments, days, months, and lifetime in a way that gives you inner calm and peace. The privilege of absorbing the world and responding in a way that makes you feel proud of yourself, that is the ultimate blessing derived from your struggle.