“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” – Seneca, philosopher
Samantha was just turning ten and was in my office because she was getting into trouble for her “enthusiasm.” One of her challenges was carrying the label ADHD. Apparently she was too energetic in her interactions with other kids. They saw her as too rough and rambunctious. It was costing her friends at school, in her neighborhood…even on her hockey team.
For her age Samantha seemed a tall drink of water, slim, agile and fluid in her movements. She had a quick, friendly, infectious smile. Her blond hair was invariable scattered from stem to stern but she had bright brown eyes the color of clover honey suggesting a heightened awareness of something others didn’t notice.
My challenge was to offer her the opportunity to learn the law of balance…to learn having friends had a price…like friends expect you to be aware of their values…friends expect you to be more gentle with them…to learn to curb her enthusiasm so others could display their ideas, affection and genius.
Since it was December I decide to start with how the law of balance applies at Christmas time in her own home. After I had explained the balance law and we discussed several examples, I said to her,
“Samantha, what is the best part of Christmas for you?”
She responded quickly, “It is always the presents because I just love getting presents!”
“And why do you love getting presents so much?” I followed up.
She responded even more quickly this time and with more enthusiasm,
“It is all about getting surprised and not knowing what I might get…you know Ken, I don’t even make a list…I just want to be surprised…it is so, so much fun!”
I said, “So the balance law states there must be a worst part to Christmas as well. And it has to be just as bad as being surprised, is good. What would that be for you Samantha?”
She thought for a quick second and then blurted out, “Getting presents!”
I was a little surprised she said it with such certainty. Before I could I ask more she went on,
“It is when people don’t like what they get as presents…like the color or the size…as if stuff like that really matters…do you know what I mean? I mean, who cares if the color or size is wrong…you can always take it back after the holiday and change it…eh? But some people get so upset over dumb stuff like that every single Christmas!”
She was obviously really bothered by these events.
I said to her slowly, carefully, suspecting this was a tender subject for her,
“Samantha, would you give me an example you remember?”
“Sure…last Christmas Dad gave my Mom a hat. It was one of those knitted ones a lot of women are wearing these days. Dad likes hats and has bought them before for my Mom on her birthday and other times. But my Mom doesn’t like hats and doesn’t wear hats. I guess my Dad hadn’t noticed that. He gets so excited by the hats he finds and he tells her how great she looks in them.”
I nodded so she would know I was still with her and she continued.
“But my Mom doesn’t see how hard he was trying to please her. Instead…she got all upset Christmas morning complaining how he doesn’t take the time to get her something she likes, doesn’t plan carefully enough, how everything he does is last minute and so on.”
To slow her down a bit and give her time to catch her breath and her emotions I said,
“My guess would be it wasn’t a pretty scene to watch on Christmas morning…eh?”
“You can say that again Ken…it was ugly and it lasted a long time as I remember it.”
“So…how did it work out?”
With one of those expressions of pure disgust only kids are capable of generating with such acute effectiveness, Samantha responded,
“She sulked for a little while but then kind of forgot about it. I guess she got caught up in other stuff going on around our tree.”
“Samantha, can you see how your Mom was talking about what was most important to her…her values, while at the very same time, your Dad was doing the same thing from within his own values?”
“I never thought of it that way before!” she said.
“So, does your Dad ever do stuff that annoys you at Christmas time?”
“Does he? (a scowl appears on her face) You wanna believe it! One year he decided to decorate some of the trees in our front yard with colored lights. Mom thought he was crazy…but he went ahead anyway…and it looked stupid…who wraps Christmas lights around a maple tree trunk? And not just one but seven trees. I was so embarrassed and so was Mom!”
“But what was the equally good part of your Dad decorating all those trees in the front yard even though it was embarrassing?” I asked her.
“Well…really it was kinda different and made our house unique and special…I bet lots of our neighbors were talking about it because the very next year two other houses on our street did the very same thing.” She replied.
“And when your Mom was so upset at your Dad for the gift he had selected…at that very second, what was the equally good part for you?”
She looked past me for a second, as if staring at a video of the event in her memory. Then she responded, “My Dad had been away a lot that year and I remember over hearing my Mom talking to my Aunt on the phone and saying she was worried he might not be coming back at all. At that moment I guess I realized my Dad really did still love my Mom and us more than anything else. You know Ken, I was so relieved!”
“So when you think about it that way…in a more balanced way…is it OK about your Mom being upset if it gave you the opportunity to realize you Dad loved you all very much?”
“When I think about it that way…it really is OK!” Samantha replied with a calmer air about her.
“ And when you think about feeling both embarrassed and kind of special at the same time with your Dad’s tree decorating idea…is it OK too!” I asked her next.
“Don’t give up! It’s not over. The universe is balanced. Every set back bears with it the seeds of a come back.”
– Steve Maraboli, author
Again she came back with a similar response, “It seems different thinking about it now…it is not bad anymore…like it is just a memory and an OK memory at the same time.” She said.
“Samantha, can you see how your Mom and Dad are just different people, unique people, each with a distinct set of values which determine the way they see each other and the world?”
“Yea I do…so this must work for me and my friends too, eh?” she asked.
“Exactly!” I said with a smile, “Can you see how this might work when you and one of your friends have a conflict?” I asked.
“I am thinking of my friend, Jenny who gets so upset when I tease her! Her values are different that’s why she doesn’t get my jokes and gets mad at me, eh Ken?”
“So given the balance law, what is the good part of having these conflicts with Jenny?”
“Well, when I think back to the last time I teased her and she got upset…the good part was I was confused by how she reacted and it got me thinking about why it happened…I really like Jenny…it got me wondering if I was missing something…I guess it gave me an opportunity to learn how to build better friendships, eh?”
And so began Samantha’s journey toward learning about her values, other people’s values, how to make friends and the law of balance. She went on to develop great skills in making friends…and keeping them.
She learned to broaden her own values by learning respect the values of others. She learned to “temper her enthusiasm, here values, within the values of other people. She became a wiser, more balanced person who learned to appreciate her self more, her family more, her friends more and her life more.
“If you aren’t in over your head,
how do you know how tall you are?”
– T.S. Eliot, poet
Next time we will look at why you have this urge to celebrate every New Year’s Eve! Have a “wonder-filled, painful” Christmas!
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- Everyone has a very specific value system based on their life experiences.
- People identified as ADHD usually have a very narrow, specific value system.
- The challenge of those who want to help those identified as ADHD is to show them the connections between their values and the values of others.
- One of the most effective tools is applications of the natural law of balance.
- Once any person learns of the perfect balance occurring in each second of their life they can use this to grow in self appreciation, self worth and self confidence.
- Every life experience, including the challenges of Christmas, provide you with important learning opportunities.
- Every second of any holiday season is an application of the law of balance with a 50/50 split of pleasure and pain ensuring we learn and evolve ourselves.