Because I have the best job in the world, I am able to pick up my son Joey from school almost everyday. Like anyone who has picked up a child from school, we have a typical interaction when we see each other.
Me: How was your day?
The other day when I picked up Joey from school, as we were walking to the car, I looked down at him and asked the question. Instead of saying fine, it went something like this... "Not great... I… I’ll just tell you about it in the car.” That was a new response and it grabbed my attention. When we both got into the car, I immediately asked, “What’s up, buddy?”
He looked me in the eye, got very teary and said, “Our sub is the worst. She’s so mean. She made my friend stay in for the whole recess. He didn’t even do anything. I just wish my old teacher was here.” (His teacher (who I adore) is on bedrest with Baby #2 on the way for the remainder of the school year.)
If you know me at all, you won’t be surprised that my instant reaction was tears as well. I really hated seeing my sweet Joey missing his teacher. That thought was quickly followed by me assuring Joey that I knew his sub isn’t the worst or the meanest. I reminded him how sometimes kids can really push the boundaries with a sub, so I’m sure she’s frustrated too.
I’m a fixer. I don’t want people I love to be sad. I don’t want my kids to not love their school. I spent most of the evening thinking about what I was going to tell Joey before school the next morning to make this better or at least not as bad as he thinks it is. When he came into my bathroom the next morning to brush his teeth, it hit me:
Change is HARD.
I pulled him close to me and said, “Buddy, I struggle with this all the time. Change is hard. You got used to how your teacher did things and now they’re different… and that change is really hard. I get it.” We sat for a few seconds in quiet and he quietly nodded his head. In his sweet nine-year old way, I think he took it in.
Change is hard. Change is especially hard when you disagree, when you think it’s flat-out wrong, or when you know it’s going to negatively impact you or someone you love. Change sucks. I used to hate when people would say the only thing you can count on is change. But, you know what? It’s true. So, what do you do when you’re experiencing an unwelcomed change?
Feel it. Let yourself cry. Go workout. Go vent to someone you trust. Use colorful language if that’s your thing (because who doesn’t love a well-placed F-bomb?). Some of you might be wondering, what’s important about letting yourself feel it? Can’t we shove it all down and pretend like everything is fine? Bottling up does no one any good, especially you. Eventually (and usually at the wrong time) you will erupt.
Name It. What is it exactly that are you feeling about this unwelcome change? Are you angry? Frustrated? Betrayed? What is it? Only when you can really give what you’re feeling a name can you decide how you’re going to move forward.
Make a Choice. Keep feeling all the feelings around this change. Need to be angry a little longer? Need to vent some more? Need to gossip about it? That’s your choice. When you’re ready to choose something else, take a deep breath and move on to the last piece.
Ask Yourself. Literally ask yourself what’s the learning here for me? Write your response on a piece of paper or in your journal. You might be surprised what comes up when you slow down long enough to write. If writing’s not your thing, tell someone about your learning.
Then, pat yourself on the back, take another deep breath and congratulate yourself for surviving another change.
I asked Joey what he thought he might be able to learn from this. His first response?
“To stay home every time I have a sub?” (Followed by a laugh.) I asked the question again and this time he said, “that not everyone is the same.” That’s the learning.