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The Curse of Passion

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For the past several weeks, my son has decided to become a Full-Fledged Teenager.  Those of you who have been-there-done-that know exactly what I mean . . . snarky attitude, disinterested facial expression, limited eye contact.  And, it’s mostly been directed at me.  I guess because I’m the one around him the majority of the time.

I’ve been through the Snarky Teenager thing twice before, so you’d think I’d have it down pat.  You’d be wrong.

When you have a passionate personality, your passion doesn’t just limit itself to the things where it can be beneficial.  Oh no!  Your passion permeates pretty much everything you do, including your child-rearing methods.  It would be so much easier on ALL of us if I could just chalk my son’s sass (can you use the word “sass” when describing a male???) up to his age, shrug my shoulders, and get on with things.  If I could just calmly call him out on his attitude, calmly demand an apology, then calmly walk away.  If I could just sit down with him a la June Cleaver and sweetly discuss the benefits of a smile and a nice disposition.  If I could just channel Dr. Freud and ask him leading questions to get him to look inside himself and discover the WHY behind his snarkiness.  If I could just NOT take it so damn personally.

I can’t.  It just isn’t who I am, try though I may.  I respond with hurt and anger and frustration and sometimes even tears.  Yes, I know in the adult, rational sliver of my brain that my son is behaving EXACTLY as is expected of someone his age, and I know I shouldn’t take it as a personal affront.  I’m constantly telling myself to stay cool, calm, and collected.  I do yoga, for goodness sake – I should be able to stay cool, calm, and collected by now, right???

Every now and then, I’m successful and I glom onto that success and try to channel it the next time around.  Every now and then, I do.  But, every now and then, I do not, and I find myself hurt and angry and frustrated all over again, more at my lack of ability to respond to my son in the way I WANT to rather than at my son’s behavior itself.

Unfortunately (!), my passionate personality made its way to our three children in some way, shape, or form.  They have each chosen (or maybe they didn’t have a choice?) to express their passion in different ways . . . the performing arts, animals, sports.  And they have each chosen to pursue their own passion to the best of their ability which makes me so happy and so proud.  But, when their passion spills out in the form of anger or frustration or snarkiness, it’s tough for me to watch because it’s like they’re simply holding up a mirror to my own behavior.

Because when you’re passionate about something, you aren’t willing to accept anything less from yourself than 100%.  And, more times than not, you hold others to that same high standard, justified or not.  And, that can often lead to anger or frustration or snarkiness.  At yourself.  At others.

Every time I go to my yoga class, my instructor asks us to dedicate our yoga practice to a single intention, something we hope to accomplish.  Pretty much every time, my intention is to be able to let go, to be able to step back, to be able to breathe deeply and stay calm.  I can honestly say that I now have fleeting moments of clarity where those things happen, where I’m able to rein in my passion just enough to avoid a firestorm.  Baby steps, right?

5 thoughts on “The Curse of Passion

  1. “Pretty much every time, my intention is to be able to let go, to be able to step back, to be able to breathe deeply and stay calm. ” Great point and reference for us all Lisa. I would only add that after your are calmed and centered to consider taking action when you know in your gut something has to be done. Which I am sure you accomplish when necessary. You have much more experience than me in the parenting department, esp. tennis parenting. I was faced with the dilemma of watching my son use bad behavior last week at a tournament. It was hard to do, but I defaulted him. Being 10, he fell apart. We talked. He understood it was his conduct and not how he played. It could have turned him off to the game, but what my gut instinct took precedent in the moment. We are the responsible guides, ultimately not their buddy or their chauffeur. You are an awesome mom! I’m sure you will navigate your paths with grace and boundful energy.

  2. Marty, I am envious of your decision to pull your son off the court when he misbehaved. As I’ve written before, that’s one of my biggest regrets as a tennis parent . . . that I DIDN’T effectively nip that behavior in the bud when it first appeared because it’s an ongoing struggle for my son, even now, to keep his temper in check. Like I wrote above, he inherited that passion from me, and I totally understand how he feels and what he’s going through when he lets it get the better of him. I can only hope that he finds a way to dig deep within himself sooner rather than later to keep it under control. One day, your son is going to look back on this past weekend’s tournament experience and thank you for the gift you gave him!

  3. Martennis, I am so impressed you pulled your child off. I have done that too and have felt so alone. My child wasn’t really even that bad relative to others but it was enough for me. Thank you for doing that. Other parents w/ worse kids complimented me and told me how they admired my parenting. Yet they let their kids continue to act that way. Thank you again.

  4. Lisa and JJ – In this instance, I had parental tunnelvision. It was center court with lots of observers. It was a first because I did not understand that other were being affected by my decision to stop my son. His opponents dad is a tennis coach too. He disagreed with me. He explained that we as parents should be so happy that our kids put the time into this game and not other “stuff.” He explained that my “suppression” could stunt his desire. I love this particular dad, so we agreed to disagree. He did however give me some magic words to speak with my son. His advice was invaluable to me in closing the circle on the event so we could move on. Sidenote: KC won the consolation draw and show much better emotional control in doing so. I am very optimistic and hopeful that I never am faced with the decision again.

  5. Lisa – there are no mistakes or regrets, only lessons learned– but you already know that.
    I’m not a parenting expert by any means, but in my opinion even if you had pulled him off the court back then, it might not have had any effect on his temperament now.
    He will start to practice staying in control the day HE decides it’s serves his highest goals more. Unfortunately, teenagers lack the ability to logically discern in the heat of the moment which behavior serves them more(as do most adults) and blowing off steam is immediate gratification that he must need or value more than winning– for now.
    At some point he will delay that impulse until after match and when he actualizes the experience of success through restraint, he’ll repeat the behavior. You already recognize that I know… it’s his lesson to learn, not yours.
    Having said that, does he understand the power of intention– and thinking only thoughts that fuel his practice? Can he recognize that his negative thoughts, bring about a negative result?
    I know you both are extremely invested in his path– but throwing this out there anyway– can he take a step back (at some point) and just be committed to playing the best match he can without the extreme passion and fury– completely detached from the outcome of the prize? It’s a different approach– literally detaching from the win to focus on the kind of person he wants to be, who he wants to become in life… But is there a possibility it just may end up serving his personal and profession life more if he does? Hasn’t practicing equanimity changed your life?
    Think about high pressure/crisis circumstances we’ve faced in college, job pressure, marriage pressure, peer pressure—
    Can you make space for the possibility that maybe for him, developing the life skill to stay centered and poised under tremendous pressure could be more valuable toward his happiness than his winning on the tennis court?
    … then again, leave room for i could be full of it. xo lisa 🙂

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