One of my children is notoriously harder for me than my other children. On my good, grounded, calm days, I remind myself that she is the child with the most to teach me. I wish I had more good, calm, grounded days.
Today happens to be one of those good days. So I want to put thoughts to paper on something important my seven-year-old daughter is teaching me.
My daughter is a beautiful, complex set of contradictory traits.
She is simultaneously shy and loud. She is strong willed and also chronically seeks reassurance. She is independent and also very physically and emotionally needy. She is barefoot, running wild through the neighborhood, and extremely anxious about being left home alone. She is sensitive and emotional and can also treat others with a callous disregard for their feelings. She is extremely loving and thoughtful, and also jealous and feisty. She keeps everyone in the family honest and we dubbed her the “Truth Teller” but she, herself, is quick to lie and manipulate…just because she can. She is, “I don’t want to be in this family anymore!” and sweet, kind notes and drawings left under my pillow. She is quick to tell me how I keep failing her as a parent and she is also the first to tell me “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” She is drama, tangled hair, vibrance, and soft, warm, quiet snuggles.
We are all beautiful, complex contradictions
What this incredible child of mine is helping me understand, is that we are all beautiful, complex contradictions. She embodies these contradictions without apology or censure. She shows up in our family, completely as herself, in the moment.
While “herself” at any moment can be a gamble, I love that within the span of the day (even an hour) I can witness so many sides of her.
Her example helps me identify my own beautiful, complex contradictions.
Here are some of mine:
I know I am strong and resilient, and I can also feel incredibly fragile.
I am truly content with my life and also continue grieving deeply the loss of my baby son.
I can feel both sadness and happiness at the same time.
I can feel confident in thinking I “know a lot” while also realizing I am very naïve about most things.
I can support and teach others how to overcome their mental illnesses, while continuing to struggle with my own.
I am kind and loving, and also short-tempered.
I am deeply and fiercely in love with my children and can’t stand to be around them at the very same second.
I can hate the beauty industry and all they stand for, and still want to show up in the world feeling attractive.
I can believe I really know someone well, and then find myself totally surprised by them.
I am planted in some strong personal beliefs, while also holding a continual openness and curiosity.
I care deeply about people and can be a very inconsistent friend.
I am an extrovert who also experiences a degree of social anxiety.
I can pull off being “cool” while inside I am 99% nerd.
Life is Contradictory
Beyond internal contradictions we all have, LIFE itself is contradictory in so many beautifully complex ways.
One paradox I work with often as a therapist is around emotions. Emotions are welcome, valid and contain important information AND they are NOT truth tellers!
Another contradiction that I love comes from psychotherapist, Carl Rogers, who stated, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change.”
I could wax more philosophical about these seeming paradoxes and contradictions but this post is getting long. And while we may pride ourselves on our intellectual curiosity, we also have short attention spans and I appreciate you reading this far.
As I finish this, my seven-year-old it blatantly disregarding my instructions to get ready for bed and is also riling up her toddler brother. So, it’s time for this exhausted mom to get back in the trenches.
Before I go, if I can summarize the wisdom I’m gleaning from my energetic seven-year-old it is that our contradictions don’t negate each other. It’s the opposite: they expand us and help us live more fully and embodied.
Did you notice how throughout this post, I never used the word but between the contradictions, instead connecting them with and?
Every one of us is seemingly contradictory in our own ways. Some of us (like my daughter) are just more honest about it. What seem like contradictory traits actually speak to our expansiveness. (The AND inside all of us). Those seeming contradictions help us build awareness, open us up toward self-compassion and empathy for others, and help us orient toward our values. We are all so beautifully complex and also so much more than we can grasp. We are more than one thing. We are so many different things. And we will continue to grow and become so many different other things we didn’t even imagine.
While my daughter may be hard for me at times, I have no desire to change her, because all those pieces make who she is, and who she is, is full of life. Although I wouldn’t complain if she lied less…and listened more.