It’s Not Us Against The World, Kid

A good amount of my life has been spent battling some sort of nemesis. My achievements usually seem to include a foil seething from the sidelines at the sight of my success. At the end of all my adventures, I stand tall as the benevolent hero with a defeated villain shouting at the heavens.

I’m not sure why that is, but it just always worked out that way. Whether it was the politics of my high school debate team or the politics of my college fraternity or the politics of, well, just walking the Earth, it felt like every step forward that I took had people trying to pull me back to where I was before. Sometimes it was a matter of perception. Sometimes it was real. But no matter what, when I reached my goal, I always had an extra reason to pat myself on the back.

ljg1That’s the role that these anti-lemonade antagonists play when life hands us lemons. In many cases, our desire to see them humbled almost takes over as the top reason to persevere.

I can’t wait to see Steve’s face when I get that promotion.

It’s almost like the coveted goal becomes secondary to seeing the pained reaction of jerky Steve when it becomes a reality. From doctors who said you would never play violin again to teachers who insisted you would never learn to read, most of our uplifting anecdotes involve soaring to the stars when others claimed you couldn’t. It just makes for a better story. Sure, we all like birthday cake, but it tastes so much better when someone says you’ll never be allowed to eat one.

These bad guys pop up whenever we’re handling a situation that’s important to us. Whether it’s personal growth, health issues, or caring for loved ones, we feed on that adversity and use it to rise up in the face of doubt. So it’s only natural that our children, the number one priority for most people, are right up there on the list of battles to wage.

This holds true for both of my kids. I want them to have the best possible lives they can. Sometime it can consume me and those who show even the slightest sign of standing in my way can feel like an enemy. The primitive instincts kick in and I find myself glaring at the next table in the Olive Garden because I think the guy there might be about to look over at my son, who’s Autism causes him to make loud noises at times. This complete stranger hasn’t even said a word, but I’m already crafting insane scenarios of what I would do if he did. A part of my brain almost begs him to say something. Come on, pal. Try to ruin our meal. I dare you.

Pretty much ten times out of ten, he doesn’t. No one says anything and all the concern I had simply exists in my head. The same holds true for my daughter, who does not have Autism but is getting old enough to do real world things on her own more. I’m always ready to bring my papa bear claws out or whatever it is that they put on memes about protecting your kids.

I don’t know if that mentality works for me or not. I try to assume there’s good in people before the bad. I really do. I don’t always achieve that goal and, in this case, the only person preventing me from achieving it is me. It’s the way my brain is wired. I get that. I do try to change it when I can. That, though, isn’t the point I want to make here.

The point is that this natural paranoia that can sometimes fuel me does nothing positive for my children. It doesn’t make thing better to walk into a meeting about my son’s educational services and placement with a giant chip on my shoulder. It doesn’t help to be combative with his teachers or angry at his bus driver. None of it helps. My son needs a lot of people in his life and, when we’re not there, these are the people I’m counting on to help him.

ojg1My patience and good rapport with them will only serve to make his life easier. I don’t want my attitude, which can be justified in my head, to keep them from sharing concerns or tips  about Lucas with me. Worse yet, I wouldn’t want them to resent my son when I walk away. He’s the one who truly needs them. Entering into these situations with a positive outlook will help me to deal with them better if a problem arises and make them more likely to contact us if there is an issue. Basically, it makes his entire life more pleasant. That’s the original goal, right?

Of course, if anyone does him wrong, I would go buck on them. That’s a given. But I’ll just wait until that happens, which it probably won’t, rather than put on my face-kicking shoes and stare them down from the moment we meet.

This battle-everyone mentality can be hurtful enough, but it’s even worse to pass that thought process on to the next generation. Of course there’s a strong desire to sit my daughter down and tell her about the evils of the world. I can take all of my cynical life experiences and heap them on her shoulders. She’s nine. She’d have to listen. I don’t get a captive audience like this for much longer.

Filling her head with the idea that most people are bad, though, will send her into the world with her guard up before she even begins. She’ll never have the chance to see what good might exist in others if her father already told her that it’s too rare to count on.

All of my negative life experiences that came up because I trusted people or assumed they were good when they weren’t, were my own to make. For every time I was wrong about someone, there were tons of times that I wasn’t. Sure, going into the world with a negative outlook might have prevented some of the harder moments. Then again, it would also have prevented the moments with good teachers or caring bosses too. I won’t let my pessimism take those moments away from her. She needs to go into the world with an open mind. If it gets closed, it should be because of her own experiences, not because her dad told her that everyone’s secretly plotting against her.

The point is that there will definitely be people who try to keep my kids down, but it won’t be all the people. No matter how paranoid I get at times, I know that statement is true. Life isn’t a constant battle against others, unless you make it one. If you do, you never know what wonderful relationships you and your loved ones might miss out on.