Today I celebrate ten years of motherhood. As I think back to the incredible day in which my first child came into the world, I can’t help but think of the man who was by my side and who, quite literally, made Jonah possible. Today, as we celebrate his birthday in our new home in Newton, my ex will be traveling 100 miles to attend the festivities. As always, I am grateful that we have the kind of relationship that allows us to rejoice together.
Nevertheless, our amicable co-parenting isn’t without its tensions, as well. I knew this day might be stressful for me, so I got up early and attended a 7:15 am yoga class. The teacher quite fittingly told a story about her own struggles over the past few years with her ex, and how recently she just stopped fighting him. She said that she gave up trying to get him to understand her, and since then their communication had dramatically improved and their tensions had lowered.
That really resonated with me, as I often want my ex to understand my feelings about his girlfriend attending the birthday party. I want her to come. Clearly it is the right thing for her, for Jonah, and for my ex. However, I keep hoping for a modicum of compassion from my ex about how it makes me feel to see him with her, and this is a quixotic hope. First of all, understanding my feelings was never his strong point when we were together, so why would I imagine that it would be now? Second, understanding someone else and putting yourself in his or her shoes is no easy task.
As I was contemplating this, I picked up one of my favorite inspirational books, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson. As luck would have it, he has written a chapter on understanding, in which he suggests that instead of trying to get someone to understand us, we should seek first to understand them. It is really just a spin on the golden rule. In other words, understand others if you want them to understand you. He writes:
“Seeking first to understand isn’t about who’s right or wrong; it is a philosophy of communication. When you practice this method you’ll notice that the people you communicate with will feel listened to, heard, and understood. This will translate into better, more loving relationships.”
So today my goal is make an effort to understand others and worry less about my own concerns. I understand that it must be difficult for his girlfriend to come to my house and hang out with my friends. I get it that my ex is frustrated about the fact that his kids currently live much farther away, and that instead of a five-minute drive to the party, he now has a ninety-minute drive. And I also understand that my sweet, little Jonah is now 10, and I am no longer the center of his universe. Today he will be more interested in his friends and his gifts. Today is about giving to and understanding others. Isn’t that often what motherhood is about?