Witnessing: The Under Rated Gift of Independence

My son is living with me this summer as he commutes to his college internship. He’s a kind and gentle young man and I like him a lot. But, having him here reminds me how much I have to work with myself to refrain from taking his learning away from him. In that refrain is my own learning.


When he was a young boy, he would get frustrated with a new video game. Having mastered his other games, going from stage 1 to finito in a short time, he had an expectation that he would be able to do the same rapid pace with a new game. Didn’t happen. His jumping up and down and crying was quite upsetting to me. I tried to solve the problem.

“Turn it off”, I said.

“Let’s take it back to the store”, I said.

Neither of these options met with his approval. However, his upset was very upsetting to me. I tried hard to solve his problem so he would feel better, so I would feel better. I claimed his upset. However, my solutions were unacceptable to him. I was hog-tied.

I consulted my friend Bill McCarley, seeking a wise-man and father’s perspective. As usual, Bill laid it out succinctly, “Let him have his own experience.” And, I did, but it wasn’t easy. Easier than being hog-tied, but no breeze. Next time my son’s impatience with his learning curve of a new game pained him; when I felt the suffering-- I simply asked if there was something I could do to help and the answer was a consistent: “no”. I accepted that, told him where he could find me if he needed me, and exited the scene of radical frustration.

I had to trust my son to figure out the solution for himself. That crossed mightily with my need to help and my she-bear desire to protect my baby. Instead, I turned and walked away, leaving him to his own very competent devices. Trusting is not always an easy state for me to live in.

I remember that incident now, as the same thing happens in a more adult version. He no longer cries with frustration when he tackles a new video game. However, when he chances learning a new high-risk game on the professional road, I see his same expectation of “getting it right the first time”. It pains him when he doesn’t and I still feel it. These days, I do my best to simply witness his self-recrimination, persistence and fortitude as he learns. These days it’s easier turn and walk away, trusting he will learn from handling it on his own. He knows where I am. If he needs my help, he’ll ask.

Posted in acceptance, anxiety, education, family relationships, inspiration on 07/04/2017 05:33 am

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