This week, I am going to be talking about not “sweating the small stuff.” Life is too short to be letting every little issue that comes our way occupy our thoughts and control our emotions. This post is going to be for my benefit just as much as for yours. I have found that as I get older, it is much more tempting to simmer over every little “offense” that I experience. As a result, I tend to care about things that really don’t matter. I hope that I speak for more than just myself when I say that we put much more weight on the little frustrations of life than they deserve. If you are like me in this regard, then this message is for the both of us.
When my wife and I first got married, I immediately picked up on some pet peeves that were common things my wife did. One of my pet peeves I noticed came from my wife would leaving kitchen cabinet doors open. It bothered me because I am taller than her (and I don’t pay attention to my surroundings very well, but that’s between you and I). Another issue involved the way my wife put movies and other disks away. I like to put the disk back in the case, and then put the case back in its assigned location. My wife, however, will either leave the disk where it can be easily scratched or she will put it in the wrong case. In both of these cases, I talked with her about my concerns and we came up with a compromise. With the cabinets, I close cabinets only when they are immediately in my way and leave the rest alone. My wife has chosen not to complain when she has to reopen doors. With the disks, we have agreed that I quit nagging, and, in the case that one disk would be ruined or lost, I have permission to replace the item if we can afford it. In both cases, she and I have had to accept some changes to make things work. My wife and I have had to do the same with the behaviors that I frustrate her with.
Fast forward about 5 years, and now I am fighting the same kind of battles with my children. However, children are not as easy to negotiate with (this is especially true with very young children). This means that I can’t work out some clever deal with them and resolve conflicts with the same kind of fairness that I can with my wife. Therefore, something has to give. Either I #1 learn to live with some of the things that drive me crazy or #2 I sell the children to the circus. No matter how much my children act like clowns, my wife will never let me get away with option #2, so option #1 it is. Now before anyone starts sinking their teeth into me in the comments section, let me say that I am totally joking. My wife is on my side about the circus option. 😉
The truth is, when we become parents things change. We are going to be late to events when every kid needs to go to the bathroom at the last minute. Our valuable collection is going to get tampered with. We will need to let go of some dreams (if only for a short time) so that we can meet the needs of our family. If these kinds of setbacks are going to happen, then we are left with two choices- we can either let them drag us down and embitter us or we can accept the uncertain and the undesired. Like, I said, this is a challenge for me as well. I have found that as I get older, I have a tendency to get stuck in my ways. Change too often feels like an archenemy. Yet, raising children forces change into our lives. You and I can’t get around it. So, instead of throwing a fit when things don’t go our way, we need to have patience with our family. We need to give grace and mercy regularly. We need to to make sure we aren’t letting the small things dictate our attitudes.
Sometimes the best remedy to dealing with the “small things” that bog us down is to put into practice these three strategies: 1) Think with flexibility, 2) Learn to let go, and 3) Embrace change. Here’s an example of what I mean to think with flexibility: The last time that I went to the beach, I kept myself busy building a sand castle off to the side. I am a baby when it comes to cold water, so there really aren’t too many other things for me to do. The girls saw me building the castle and decided that they wanted to make their own contributions. People kept asking how I was able to keep my patience as the girls routinely undid my work. The answer was simple. Once I saw that my original goal wasn’t working, I made an alteration to the goal- I would build a goofy-looking sand castle. Once my mind could bend to the situation, I was able to make peace with what was happening. The next strategy, learn to let go, means that we accept that the world doesn’t spin around us. We must be willing to abandon our false sense of control. The third strategy, embrace change, refers to a willingness to see the changes coming in our lives and choose to accept them rather than fight them. Change is not necessarily a bad thing. Change only becomes our adversary when we choose not to embrace it. There are issues worth standing our ground on. However, the “small stuff” I am referring to here are not the kind of battles that are worth fighting.
There are enough real problems in this world as it is; we don’t have to go around making new ones for ourselves. If we find ourselves getting overwhelmed by things that are not going to change, then it is for the best that we make some changes of our own. If you are in need of assistance with addressing stress related to the “small stuff” that we as fathers experience, then I encourage you to return back to a previous post titled, “Stressed Out.” Here, I go over some strategies/tips to help identify and manage stress. In the meantime, let’s practice not sweating the small stuff this week. If you have any comments or questions regarding our topic this week, feel free to leave a comment. I am thankful for any feedback that I receive.