When you look at this photo, you probably see the cute little girl licking the birthday candle, right?
Not me! I see the lopsided cake that I decorated for my daughter's recent birthday. Which brings me to my Happiness Commandment # 6:
Do your best and be done with it.
I’m pretty good at the first part of this commandment. It’s the second part I have a hard time with. I usually do my best, and then …….I go over the thousands of things I could have done differently that would’ve made the project/cake/meeting/(insert important task here) just that much better, then feel guilty that I didn’t think of that before, then end up feeling like maybe I really hadn’t done my best, then feel guilty that I actually didn’t do my best, then wonder why I can’t fall asleep even though the project I’m thinking about is done and out of my hands now.
My mom used to tell me when I was growing up, “Do your best, and that’s all you can do.” At the time, I thought that meant I needed to do my best at everything I tried to do. But now I see the other part of it, as well. There’s a release involved when you know you’ve done your best. If you know you’ve done your best, you don’t have to rethink and mull over a project when it’s done. You gave it your best. Now be done with it.
I think this idea is especially hard when you have a child with a disability. Say, for instance, your child has autism, and you are trying to do your best to figure out which type of therapy is right for your child. The stakes are high. The pressure is on. You do your research, get (often unsolicited!) advice from everybody and their mother, then make an educated decision and choose a program you think will work for you. You've done your best! Now let it go for a while. You obviously want to reassess the program in 3-6 months to be sure your child is progressing well with it, but don't second guess yourself every day.
I've also had parents tell me that they feel guilty about things like: a) starting early intervention too late, b) not being able to give their child with a disability enough attention because of other responsibilities, c) wondering whether something they did or didn't do during the pregnancy could've caused the disability, etc. Here's the truth of the matter: ALL parents feel guilty that they didn't do things perfectly every second of their child's life. And the important thing is, that all of the parents I have ever worked with have done the very best they could do given the situation.
So, yes, maybe you were busy processing the reality of your child's disability and a few months went past without early intervention. It happens, and it's not the end of the world. And maybe if you quit your job and hired a full time nanny for all your other children and a personal assistant for all of your errands, you could totally attend to your child at all times. (and be in debt up to your eyeballs!) And maybe you did take Nyquil (like me!) for a few days before you knew you were pregnant. (Whew, turns out the umbilical cord wasn't formed yet!)
But, hey, you did the best you could at the time. And that's all you can do.
I’ve retyped this post more times than I’ve retyped any of the other ones. How’s that for irony? Like I said, I’m working on the second part of the commandment.
What saying do you remember your parent(s) saying over and over when you were growing up? Was it helpful then? Is it helpful now?