Why can't I eat donuts everyday?
My son is an addict. He is ten years old and he is addicted to sugar. As a parent I love to see him happy and filled with joy. Sugar makes that boy so happy. I am separated from my husband so the kids are with me half the time and every other weekend, from Friday to Monday, they are with me. I have two children, a ten year old son and a fifteen year old daughter. On some of those weekends I will wake up early and go get breakfast before the kids wake-up. Sometimes it's a surprise and sometimes it's a special request from one of them. Often, almost always, my son asks if I'll get donuts. And many times I'll do it because, hell, I love donuts too and like I said I love to see the joy on his little face when he wakes up and knows there is a donut waiting for him, maybe two. BUT, and you know there is a but coming, if it becomes an expectation, well, disappointment is soon to follow. We've (my husband and I) had the talk with him many times about sugar. Sugar, that seemingly sweet innocent innocuous substance that many Americans eat on a daily basis and is pervasive in our diets. I won't get into the down side of sugar or the many reasons it is destructive but I will say we are all faced with having to choose to consciously exclude it from our meals. It is readily available and hidden in so many things. From the creamer in my coffee to the bread in a sandwich to the salsa I dip my chips in it is everywhere and I have to pay attention. This post isn't about nutrition or dietary restrictions though, it's about perspective.
Yesterday my son asked if we could have donuts in the morning. He asked a few times throughout the day and I didn't give him a definitive answer. In the moment I wasn't really thinking about sugar or the consequences of eating sugar. In the moment he asked I was thinking about how happy donuts made my son so I said "maybe". Maybe. Maybe can mean a lot of things. It can mean "I don't know" or "We'll see". It's not a no, but it's not a yes. It's that ambiguous in between that we say when we aren't quite sure or ready to commit. When I woke up this morning the kids were still asleep and I knew that kid would wake up with the expectation of donuts for breakfast and I was faced with a choice: do I get the donuts and "make" him happy or do I not get the donuts and deal with his disappointment. This lead me down an interesting path. Parenting is an incredible experience. At the risk of sounding cliche' it has taught me so much about myself and it is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Seeing my kids disappointed or hurt or in pain is horrible. It just feels bad. When a decision I make is the cause of that disappointment or hurt or pain, damn, that feels even worse. But that is part of the job. Which leads me to the insight I had. God or the Universe, whichever you choose to name It, is like a parent. But really it's about perspective. Because my experience in this life is greater than my child's I have the benefit of having a broader perspective. I know that the short term gratification of eating a donut has long term negative effects.
It's really not about the donut or the sugar. The lesson, the hardcore truth I realized is how the parent child relationship is a model for our relationship to the Universe. My son inherently trusts that I love him deeply. I don't often say no to him so when I do he knows deep down it's for the best. He still gets disappointed, sad, angry and sometimes will even pitch a fit but in the end when we talk it through he accepts my decision. He might not fully understand why but he trusts that I have his best interest at heart. Do I do that when the Universe tells me no? Do I trust that Life/Source/the Infinite has a greater perspective than me and knows better? When I feel rejected or deprived or alone do I fall into the belief that Life is out to get me and make me unhappy? Or can I pull back, sit in my disappointment or discomfort and trust that something greater is at work? We've all heard the idea that the way we view our own parents is the way we view God. That our relationship to authority and our caretakers growing up is how we relate to God as adults. The majority of us had complicated childhoods that were filled with trauma and difficulty. That's just the human condition and the world or simulation we live in. AND, there is healing available for us. Or maybe it's just the journey. This life is an adventure. Adventure is dangerous. That's why it's so exciting. In the end, it's all about the perspective we choose.