A couple of week’s back my family was sitting down around the dinner table for our nightly family meal. It was only a couple of minutes into the meal after everyone was finally settled in that my youngest daughter spoke up and asked me to take her to the ‘potty.’
I initially responded by asking why she didn’t use the potty before we sat down. I felt a sense of frustration but told her that I would accompany her down the hall to the restroom. Being aware of my sense of frustration and the feeling that ‘my’ dinner was being interrupted, I immediately thought of a story that a friend used to share in a communication class that we co-facilitated many years ago.
In his story my friend shared a shift in his mindset as he was approaching his final years of having one child left in his home before having an empty nest. He already had a couple of children out of the home either in college or living on their own, and one remaining in high school. He found himself becoming frustrated with the daily tasks of driving his teen to school and to friend related activities, along with the many other activities required (cooking, cleaning, etc.) in managing a household with youth.
One moment in the midst of frustration, he had a moment of clarity realizing that he only had a couple of short years left before he would no longer have an opportunity to spend these simple moments with his child. Soon they would have their own transportation, run their own errands, have their own family, and the opportunity to spend these precious moments with them would be gone.
At that moment his entire thought process shifted From: “I have to,” To: “I get to.” Instead of feeling the obligation that “I have to” go pick them up and take them to practice, or to school, or to work, or to hang out with friends, he realized “he gets to.” He gets to continue being a part of their life and participating in their daily activities at that level for a short period of time. This shift in mindset changed his outlook, and changed the way he functioned for the remaining time at home with his final child.
The truth of my friend’s experience rattled my being as I got up to walk my daughter to the restroom. I felt an immediate shift from frustration to deep appreciation. As we walked down the hallway I realized that her need to hold my hand for a simple task like walking to the restroom would soon cease. I wasn’t being inconvenienced, I was being granted an opportunity to share a moment in my daughter’s life.
I’ll always remember looking down in her eyes while gripping her hand tightly for our short walk together that evening.
I believe I experienced two sides of what author Robert Quinn described when he wrote, “What we see around us depends on our own state of being.” By changing the state of my mind, my state of being also shifted, creating an entirely different outcome. Instead of inconvenience, I saw an opportunity. Being in that state created an experience that is forever etched in my memory.