My Home Owner’s Association planned a movie-night-in-the-park for the families in our neighbourhood and my son was super excited to stay up late with his friends. Around the time the movie let out, I answered a call from one of his buddies. The panicked voice on the other end was my son. He was calling to tell me his backpack had been stolen and his phone was gone. We tried to find it through location services, but that option had been turned off for privacy reasons. We looked for hours with flashlights alongside one of the organizers and a few other parents, but the backpack was nowhere to be found.
When my son got home, we reported the phone stolen, locked it down, let the neighbourhood Facebook group know the backpack and phone were missing, and we tried to reassure him that someone might have picked it up by accident, or perhaps a good Samaritan would find it. That didn’t seem to assuage his fears that his phone was gone and that someone would be digging through all his personal information. He had a restless night, but went to school in the morning with an upbeat attitude and told me he still had hope that someone would return his device to him.
It was around 9:00 a.m. Monday morning when I got the call requesting that I pick my son up from school. I was told he was not able to concentrate on his classwork and wasn’t listening to the teacher, so he was sent to the office. Despite repeated warnings, he kept walking off without telling anyone where he was going, so they were unable to keep him at the school. After I hung up the phone, I apologized to my brother and my dad and told them I had to cancel our breakfast plans, and then I left to retrieve my son. On the drive, I could feel some negative thoughts bubbling to the surface, so before I went into the school, I sat in quiet contemplation. After a few moments the question, “How can I show up in love to help him through this?” appeared.
I walked into the school office and my son picked up his backpack off the floor and walked past me without saying a word. I mouthed “thank you” to the office staff and followed my son out to the truck. He buckled his seat belt and sat staring out the window, arms crossed, sullen and quiet. We pulled up to a local coffee shop and he turned to ask me what we were doing. I said, “I know you didn’t eat much for breakfast this morning so I thought I’d buy you something to eat and then we can talk. Is that okay?” He nodded and we went in, ordered and found a table to sit at.
After he was settled and had a few bites I asked, “Tell me what happened today.”
He said, “The day started off okay, but then the teacher wanted me to write a paragraph and I couldn’t think of anything because I kept thinking about my phone and then she sent me to the office. What if somebody hacks into my phone and starts erasing all my games? What if they get into my accounts and start pretending to be me?”
There were a few seconds of silence, and he took another bite of his sandwich. Seeing he was done explaining I said, “Being upset and not able to concentrate is a totally normal reaction buddy. Did you tell your teacher or the office staff what was going on so they could help you work through it?”
He said, “No, I was just so mad. Besides, even if I told them, they’d say, ‘It’s just a phone. You can always get a new one.’ They wouldn’t understand.”
As I watched my kiddo eat his favourite breakfast sandwich, I could see his shoulders slowly creeping up toward his ears, and he was tearing into the sandwich as though he was reliving the anger he had felt earlier. I asked myself, “How can I help him grow from this experience?” A picture of a daisy flashed in my mind’s eye and brought with it a memory of me sitting under a tree, pulling off the flower petals one by one while reciting, “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me.” The answer was simple. The answer was love.
I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen from my purse and drew an uncomplicated daisy and then traced a stem below the flower. I said, “You see this flower?” My son nodded his head and I continued, “The top part of the flower is a state of pure love. It’s where we feel aligned, happy, and fulfilled. Where we are living in harmony, living our purpose and living in service to humanity.” I jotted down those words on either side of the flower.
I then wrote the words “Love” and “Purpose” on either side of the stem and said, “If we live our life with love and in alignment with purpose, it leads us to that state of pure love.” I then traced over the stem from bottom to top as I said, “If life were perfect, we would never veer from the path. Everything would be easy for us, we’d never have any conflict, and we would feel love for ourselves and others all the time. In that state, we would live our lives with purpose, ease and joy. But life isn’t always like that, is it?”
“No,” he replied.
Stuck in the Weeds
I then drew a similar daisy flower with a stem, and this time I drew a small line about a centimetre long, near the bottom of the stem, veering to the right and labelled the line “event”. Then I drew a dot at the end of the line and said, “Sometimes an event happens that makes us feel angry or sad or hurt, right?”. He nodded and I continued, “And then we start to feel better, and things seem normal again as we are travelling the straight and narrow path, and then something else happens, right?”
I continued, “And sometimes when we are starting to feel better something else happens, and then something else happens, and then we recover a little, and then something else happens, and we feel like we are going in a million different directions, and our emotions are all over the place, and our thoughts are so negative, and we sometimes find it hard to believe that things are ever going to get better.” I drew several lines as I spoke; some returning to the stem and others veering off in every direction until the final picture looked like the stem of a weed. Then I said, “That’s what I call being stuck in the weeds. Have you ever felt that way?”
He nodded and said, “I felt that way last night when we searched everywhere for my phone and couldn’t find it and again at school today. I’m so mad. I mean, who steals a kid’s backpack?”
I said, “Oh buddy, that must have been hard to feel all those feelings welling up inside. It’s a yucky feeling when someone takes something from you or does something that hurts your feelings. Unfortunately, we can’t control what other people do, but we can control how we react.”
Choose Your Path Wisely
I drew another daisy, complete with stem and this time I drew a zig-zag line up the stem to the tip of the flower and added dots to the end of each of the zig-zag edges. Labelling as I went along I said, “We know that things happen in life that take us off the path. People hurt us, people steal things, and other things happen. Each one of those dots is how we react after an event happens. Each dot is an opportunity for us to exercise choice. We can choose to think negative thoughts and let them drive our actions, or we can choose to think positive thoughts and let those drive our actions. If we choose positive thoughts, we can return quicker to that state of love and walk along that joyful path, even when difficult things happen to us.” I paused for a moment, then continued, “Have you heard of Viktor Frankl?”
“Viktor Frankl was put in a concentration camp and his whole family was killed. Even though he was tortured by the Nazis and everyone he loved had been taken from him, he still found joy in living.”
“How?” asked my son.
I answered, “Despite his circumstances, he believed that in any given moment, he could choose joy, and no one could take that freedom of choice away from him. That means when something bad happens, we all have a choice in how we react—”. I pointed to one of the dots, “This is the moment of choice. We can choose to think positively and react from that place of love or we can choose to let negative thoughts rule our actions. One way to combat negative thoughts is to choose gratitude. Think of the people you love; the things and experiences you are thankful for. Can you think of anything you are grateful for?”
He said, “I’m grateful for my family, and my friends, and that I get to play video games.”
I said, “Those are good ones. Did thinking about those things make you feel better?”
He said, “Sort of. I guess. Yes.”
“Okay, so when you choose love, the way you think about the situation changes and you start to see that even though this negative thing happened, it doesn’t mean that all the positive stuff in your life disappears. When we focus on gratitude and positive thoughts, there is no room for negative thoughts and it helps us get back to that loving path much quicker.”
Then I asked, “Do you know that when you are living in that state of love, your energy invites others to react from that same place of love?”
He asked, “Like how?”
“Well… Imagine I had picked you up from school and said, ‘You’re grounded. Losing your phone is no excuse for misbehaving at school.’ How do you think you would have reacted?”
He said, “I would have been angry because it’s not fair.”
I said, “I happen to agree with you. That’s why I brought you for breakfast instead, to show you that I care how you feel, that I know you are hurt and angry about your phone, and that I want to help you through it by showing you love and compassion.”
He said, “Wow. That really worked.”
I said, “I know – it’s called resonance. Imagine if everyone in the world resonated love, what a wonderful place this would be! Now that you are feeling a little calmer, are you ready to get back to school?”
He said, “Sure.”
I drove back to the school, walked him to the office and explained to the office staff what had happened and why he was so upset earlier that morning. The two staff members reacted in unison with a sympathetic “Awww”.
I looked at my son and said, “Hey, they didn’t say ‘it’s just a phone’. They resonated with your story.”
He said, “Whoa… Mom, I think I should spend more time with you.”
Oh, my heart! His words hit me in the feels and I was so glad I chose to show up in love.