My son and I were in Target ( aka, our second home) last week.
It was a few days before his birthday, and we were near the toy aisle.
He asked if he could get a toy, and I replied ” A toy? It’s three days before your birthday. You will be getting plenty of toys then . NO!”
I happened to look at over at his face right then and he seemed a little dejected. My immediate thought was that he was upset because I had not gotten him a toy.
Which may have been true. And I suspected there maybe something deeper there for me to explore.
It was still niggling at me later that night. Something just in the back of my brain that I could not quite get to.
It hit me right before I fell asleep. It wasn’t so much that I had refused his toy; it was actually that I had refused his desire.
Children are desire machines. They want things. Constantly. Some asks are really reasonable, like a glass of water. And some are frankly outrageous. Like the time my son asked if we could have a dolphin as a pet ( Side note: I would LOVE a dolphin for a pet too!)
As parents, it is, of course, our job to say yes and no according to our values, budget, comfort level etc.
However, it is not our role to make them feel wrong for wanting in the first place.
And I realized at 11:07 PM that that’s exactly what I had conveyed to my son with my response.
I had, in effect, given him the message that he was somehow greedy for wanting more toys.
I flashed back to my own childhood and the stories I have heard from my own clients.
How often we had absorbed that to want something more than what we had meant we were selfish or ungrateful.
It did not even have to be a material possession. It could have been the desire for ( more) affection, time, comfort or closeness from a parent or caregiver.
So we learned to shut our desires down, to keep them hidden from everyone, most especially ourselves.
And then we turn into adults who have absolutely no idea what we REALLY want because we have been so conditioned to believe there is something fucked up about us for desiring to begin with.
We have forgotten how to dream and vision and imagine anything other than the practical or affordable or sensical.
That is not to say that we should live above our means. But it is a reminder that the good stuff is born from our own creativity and our desire to have or be that which we currently are not.
Let’s start to change that, shall we? For starters, think back to when you were a kid. What did you want? Maybe it was was a particular Hotwheel with a cool racing stripe, or the fancy dress for your Barbie Doll ( or even you!)
Can you feel the part of you that thinks I’m ridiculous? Or the part of you that feels shame creeping into your face at the mere suggestion that you WANT something?
Good. Now, can you feel past those parts to the beauty of your own desire? Can you let it delight you and bring a delicious smile to your face? What if you gave your want permission to THRILL you?
Can you love the part of you that wants?
When my son woke up the next day, that is exactly what I told him.
“Alexander” I said, ” I love the part of you that wants. Big things, small things, outrageous things, crazy ridiculous things. You can want as much as you want”
And so can you.