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Do You Care Too Much?

“Do you think you could treat me like I’m 25… and stop caring so much?” pleaded my 15-year old son, when I returned home from traveling. During the weeks I was gone, Michael had somehow carried on without his mother; then suddenly mom was on the scene again, telling him what to do.

“I could treat you like you’re 25 if you act that way,” I replied smugly, “but stop caring? I’m not sure that’s possible, or even desirable.” What did he mean, “stop caring”? What was it that I was doing that would cause him to want me to stop caring?

I got my answer when visiting my own mother last week. I found myself frequently irritated as she told me what to do:

“Eat something. You must be hungry.”
“Turn around and drive home right now to get a jacket. You will be cold in the restaurant.”
“Don’t take off any more weight. It’s not healthy.”
“Don’t take such long walks. You’ll wear yourself out.”

Do this. Do that. Or else.

It was enough to make me scream, “Stop treating me like a two-year old!”

Wham! Who said that? Me? I have heard those exact words from my son’s lips. This startled me. Do I treat Michael like my mother treats me? And why does it push my buttons? After all, isn’t she behaving this way because she cares about me?

Eureka! “Stop caring so much…”

As I pondered the synchronicity of my son’s request with my own experience as a child, I happened to read this passage from concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl, in “Man’s Search for Meaning:”

“…success, like happiness, cannot be pursued: it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself … Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: You have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

While I’m not entirely sure of Frankl’s meaning in relationship to my son’s request, I feel strongly there is something here for me to consider. Thus, I share it with you for us to contemplate together.

My fervent desire is for each of us to feel empowered to fully experience the freedom and responsibilities of personal choice. To give this gift to my son, I choose to stop smothering him with my caring, well-intentioned but often unnecessary (face it, mom!) advice. Come to think of it, refraining from giving unsolicited advice to my business associates and friends is a great idea, too!

As I re-read Frankl’s writing and look to the Agreements to help me take my next steps, each Agreement lifts me up: I will keep doing what works and change what’s not working, listen with my heart, honor our choices, see the best in myself and others, and finally, thank goodness: “Lighten Up!”

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