Friday, July 25, 2008

No Complaints

There is nothing like a routine visit to the children's hospital with one of your kids for a totally no-big-deal, planned follow-up, to bring up feelings of gratitude and a little philosophizing. A visit where thankfully, what you'd been following is fine, and resolved, and all you take home is your child and some films. Baruch ata Hashem elokeinu melech haolam, hatov vehameitiv!

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about the idea that we shouldn't try to minimize the challenges of another person. We do this a lot as moms, sometimes without even realizing it.

My kids are nearly 5, nearly 3, and nearly 1. We're firmly in diaper-tantrum-toileting-sleepless-crumbs-holdme-helpme territory and will probably be there for a while. I know what my challenges are, but I also (hopefully) am able to keep the complaints to a minimum and sense the immense blessings of this stage. Talking to a relative or friend with school-aged kids or teens or kids of an age range that runs the gamut, can sometimes lead to a laundry list of "just-you-waits" and "so-glad-that's-overs".

What does it mean when we compare challenges? When we're vying for the title of Biggest Sufferer? I read recently that the allure of complaining is that if we demonstrate just how difficult our life's challenges are, we come across as all that much more heroic for overcoming them.

I think that there's a great deal of truth to this explanation. Kvetching to one another is not sinful, but there's a hidden motive that can lurk: If I've just described the myriad of difficult scenarios I face, the mere fact that I'm standing upright in front of you makes me some kind of Superwoman, right?

Well, momentarily, maybe. But in the long run, I think that we're drawn to those with buoyant spirits and with a grateful perspective on life. Those who are cheerful and insist not that "it was nothing" but that they were happy to do it.

The gist of it for me (and this is a major work in progress) is to minimize my own complaints while at the same time, hearing and being empathetic towards the complaints of others, without minimizing or judging. It's a tall order. It's our life's work.

What do you think?


Erachet said...

You have a good point. I hate the whole "my struggles are worse than your struggles" game because each person is different, each person can handle different things at different times, etc. etc. etc. Plus, if people were to sincerely ask themselves, "do I actually want to be the worst sufferer of them all?" I would be seriously concerned if the answer to that was "yes." Usually, though, people just want something to complain about.

On the flip side, that's not the only motive for complaining. Sometimes people just need to vent and all they're genuinely looking for is an ear and a friend to tell them it's not so bad or to give them moral support.

I think we all have to work on finding a balance between those two things, though (complaining for the sake of complaining and 'one-upping' someone else vs. venting for moral support).

triLcat said...

I think you're a hero! Just having 3 kids and keeping them fed and dressed and happy is enough to make you amazing.

LittleBirdies said...

Sometimes we complain to get it off our chests. Sometimes it's easier to deal with whatever we are dealing with when we have "vented" to our friends and they give us the encouragment and hugs we need to get on with our day.

Rivster said...

I find it reassuring to hear that other moms have survived because there are days that I feel so uncertain. I want to know that I'm not the only one who forgets to turn in the paperwork for GATE (gifted and talented education) and will need to wait an entire year. That I'm not the only one who closes her door at work and cries because she forgot (again!) to pick up a box of "my bery fav'rite french toast."

It's reassuring.

RaggedyMom said...

triLcat - LOL. Before you know it, you'll be a hero too!

Erachet, Rivster, LittleBirdies - I think that what you're describing is something that's missing for me in terms of disclosure and letting my guard down. It's possible that complaining as a form of genuine venting doesn't occur to me the same way because I have a hard time doing that!