/> Raising Angels: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Monday, September 04, 2017

You Can't Always Get What You Want

This morning, as I was sitting next to Felicity during mass, I noticed her tediously peeling the paper off of her crayon.

"Felicity," I whispered, trying not to cause a scene, "please don't peel that paper off."

"Why?" she wanted to know.

"Because it's making a mess."

She continued the process, not phased at all by my request. She is three, which means she has her own opinion...about EVERYTHING and she's not afraid to let me know exactly what that is.

"Felicity," I whispered a bit more sternly, "stop."

She stopped for a moment, looked me straight in the eye and said very matter-of-factly, "I can do whatever I want."

I was stunned by her brazenness - the absolute belief that her statement was true. I can do whatever I want. Let it settle on you for a moment.

Let me assure you that her statement got dealt with immediately and as effectively as can be done in the middle of mass. I reminded her of a fact she had momentarily forgotten while she was caught up in her naturally self-centered world. Her theme song is "You Can't Always Get What You Want".

We went on with the business of the day after mass, but still her statement haunted me. "I can do whatever I want."

It sends chills down my spine. I grappled with it on and off during the day. She is my spunky kid and tons of fun. She is snugly and wild and expressive. She's also in the process of learning that the world, in fact, does not revolve around her. She's testing all boundaries and discovering how to be herself within the limits of being a descent human being.

She's three. It's normal at her age to speak and act as if she can do whatever she wants. That's where I come in and teach her that in fact, you CANNOT do whatever you want. Right? I mean I don't think there are many, if any, parents who just let their toddlers do what they want all the time. Can you even imagine what that would look like?

On second thought, maybe you can...watch the news.

Suddenly I knew that what had been haunting me was not so much that Felicity had made this declaration of total autonomy, but that more and more adults in our world are doing the same thing. It's a simplistic way to look at things - but it's the truth.

See something in a store you like but don't feel like paying for - steal it. Didn't study for that test like you should have - cheat. Make a mistake you don't want to admit - lie. Disagree with someone - yell, punch, or disown them. Don't like a church building or statue - tear it down. Someone makes you mad - shoot them.

How come we can see the absurdness of this way of thinking in small children, but seemingly applaud the very same behavior in adults? At the core of most of these issues is an underlying mindset that says, "I can do whatever I want." When did that become okay?

As Felicity's mama, it's my responsibility to teach her that she is not free to do whatever she wants. If she's angry, we teach her that it's not okay to slam doors and stomp off. When she's being teased by her big brothers, screaming at the top of her lungs is not the best way to make it stop. When she wants to eat marshmallows and lollipops for dinner (I kid you not, this was an actual request), I tell her no. When she wants to stay up with the big kids until the wee hours, I send her to bed anyway. The list goes on and on. It's a seemingly unending task. In her short life she's experienced a number of consequences that help remind her that she shouldn't do that particular thing again. In fact, she's beginning to see that life in general goes much better when she plays by the rules. In many cases, I need only to sing a few bars - "You can't always get..." before she begs me to stop and quickly complies.

Maybe what the world needs right now is a parent. We need someone to remind us that we can't do whatever we want, whenever we want. We need to remember that the world does not revolve around us. We might need a timeout so we can think about our actions and ask forgiveness for our wrong doings.  We need to practice the art of shaking hands, giving hugs, and saying, "I'm sorry".

I suggest we begin with a morning wake up call over a worldwide speaker playing, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try (nicely) sometime, you just might find you get what you need."


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