On the whataboutmeeeees!
About a year ago, my wonderfully crafty sister, Jill, made us this awesome “Family Rules” board. She laid down the strips of paper and stenciled in the top, leaving the rest of it blank for Rob and me to fill in with a few pithy gems. It was quite a process, choosing which rules we wanted on display in our home. We wanted it to be a family project, but as the kids shouted out their contributions, (Chew with your mouth closed! Don’t forget to flush the toilet! No pouring sand on your sister’s head!) we realized that their literal brains weren’t going to be much help. We brainstormed, wrote and rewrote until we thought that perhaps we had included everything we wanted to. And we committed to go through one “rule” a week with our kids, explaining why it was something we valued and wanted them to learn about.
And while all of the principles on that board are important to us, I would have never guessed which one would be the most referenced, the most pointed to, and in many ways the most difficult for our kids to live out. Maybe the concept of generosity, or serving others with joy, perhaps? Nope…
CELEBRATE WITH ONE ANOTHER
How could a rule where we basically tell them to party down with each other be so challenging? Why is it that when one of them falls off their scooter or is made fun of on the playground, they rally around and protect each other…but when one of them gets to go to a party, wins a special award, or is praised for their hard work? Tears. TEARS, people! “It’s not fair!!! What about me?” Now it very well could be that our 4 delightful Dixon children are just a smidge more competitive than most. You know, apples falling certain distances from trees and all that. But I do think that there is something in our human nature that causes us, when we see good things happen to other people, to immediately ask the question, “What about me?” And it is that very self-focus that we are trying to fight against when we ask them to CELEBRATE.
Seeing the kids struggle so much with the concept certainly had me examining my own ability to be happy for others. In the writing world, I have been blessed to meet so many amazing people. And in the land of social media, we are able to share just about everything with each other. We pull each other back up to standing when we’re told our work isn’t enough, we inspire one another when our writing hits a wall, and we tell each other to press “send” once again when the rejections roll in. And these are people that, for the most part, we have never met! But what about when someone lands an agent, sells another manuscript, or wins an award? Are we able to cheer them on, and genuinely CELEBRATE them without asking, “What about me?”
While in theory we adults should be somewhat more emotionally mature than our kids, it is easy in a moment of weakness to want to crawl into the darkest corner of our homes and wallow in the whataboutmeeeees! Or the shouldabeenmeeeees! Or the williteverbemeeeees! Take this
absolutely somewhat autobiographical example…
So maybe your friend Sally sold another book. And maybe you’ve been trying for a year to sell your second book and maybe you’re going crazy thinking it’s never going happen and you’ll just be a one-hit-wonder and never write anything else that anyone wants to read EVER and go on to die as that lady who on a fluke wrote a book once but wasn’t really a writer. And you go ahead and dissolve into a puddle on the floor, in tears…TEARS, people! all because this amazingly wonderful thing happened to your friend Sally.
How does this make any sense?
But it happens. And when we get in that place, we have to take a deep breath, and tell ourselves the same thing we tell our kids.
“IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.”
That’s right. It has nothing to do with you. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
Isn’t that just freaking wonderful?
“IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!!!”
How freeing! If we can take this in and turn our focus outward then I think we can truly start to celebrate with one another. Sally just sold a book! That’s amazing! And as we make a daily choice NOT to ask, “What about me?” I think it becomes more and more natural to be genuinely happy for those around us.
So I’m trying to train myself not to ask, “What about me?” And I am hoping that as I stare at those family rules on the wall, and repeat “CELEBRATE WITH ONE ANOTHER” over and over to my children, that perhaps I’ll not take quite so long to pop the champagne, blow up some balloons and throw an absolutely spectacular party for Sally.