Hope is often touted as a critical force in life. I agree. I'm all about being an agent of hope for my kids, being an agent of hope in the world.
But being an agent of hope usually doesn't change the world utterly. It may (and does) improve it, shore it up, grease the wheels of progress, enhance human understanding, pave the way toward greater goods.
Sometimes, though, it is the other side of the line that really is
crucial. It isn't hope that taught me to let go of my desires and control
and methods with Mr. G's eating. It was really losing hope, after having
hope. I described this at Ask Moxie - that revolutions do not happen when there was never any hope. And they don't happen when there was no hope and now there is - you get action, but not revolutionary change. It is only when hope was given, and then was lost, that true revolution occurs. (This from a class called 'Crowds, Cults, and Revolutions' in college.)
Moxie pointed out the relevance to more simple and individual
human actions. I'd been kind of wandering in that direction, but she
snapped things into focus. Yes, this is human nature. So yes, this is
This is 'how we work'.
I had no hope for a while, when Mr G was little, and wouldn't eat more than a few different foods. I just carried on, working with what I had. Then I got a flicker of hope - someone mentioned that maybe he had a feeding disorder and I should get him evaluated by a professional. HOPE - hope that he'd some day eat 'normally'... that this wasn't a forever condition. HOPE.
So I ran with it. Spurred to action, way paved and re-energized to find a solution. We hit the feeding clinic, they worked with him, we worked with him, we did and did and did. And it did a lot. We made a lot of progress.
But not really all the progress. It stopped again. There were more foods in there, but the resistance returned with a change in development, and we were right back at the worry and the certainty that I could not force this on him. In the end, I had to accept utterly that his body was his, and that I had no hope of making him eat the things his body should need (vegetables, say). Certainly not in the quantities I expected his body to need for development and health into adolescence.
My hope oozed away, gradually but constantly. As hope ebbed below the tipping point, my reaction was to fight back. But not to just fight for what I had already had - I needed something more. Something new, something vital, different, REAL. Something that offered not just that flicker of hope, but a true vision of hope... and more, a completely new promise beyond hope.
That's when I searched and searched, looking for a revolution in thinking, something that wasn't what I'd already learned, something that wasn't what had already been lost. And I found it, again through a feeding clinic, but one with a slightly different message. Instead of working with, and working with, and working around, and working with, I was to let go. Totally let go, and leave the choice to eat or not eat, how much, and when, to him.
Now, I still provided the options, so it wasn't 'candy, or donuts?' as the choices. There were some sweeter options, plus as large a variety of things as he'd eat already as I could maintain, plus things he was welcome to try that were part of the rest of the meals. Granted, what he'd eat already wasn't much. But it was some. We also worked to expand to include anything he thought he might like to try, even if it wasn't what I wanted for him.
So what did that mean? How did I answer the questions? Any way I could, really. Protein? Protein bars. Chocolate protein bars. Gooey ones. More like dessert. But hey, some balance there, some soy protein, some fiber, whatever - if you like it, eat it. If not, don't. It is up to you. I let go.
And that 'up to him' was really the revolution. I had to lose all hope of helping, supporting, guiding, chivvying, wheedling, or any other 'ing' that was from me to him. I had to lose hope of being an instigator of change, in order to effect real change.
I also had to do something my mom taught me (though I'll admit she's spotty on success on this). That is, to relinquish any desire for credit. "It's amazing what can be accomplished when you don't care who gets the credit." Favorite saying of hers. (I'm sure quoted from somewhere, but quite useful regardless.) Even though I wasn't thinking 'pat on the back' credit, I was still thinking 'I am a spur to action' credit. I was thinking 'wind beneath his wings' credit. (Both areas where Mom has trouble letting go of the idea of 'credit')... I saw that in me, and I had to let that go. Hope gone, tear down the whole structure, start over. And not even 'try again' but 'rethink entirely from the foundations up' and 'discard all previous notions' and 'maybe salvage an item or two later, but certainly not up front!'
I think most of my revolutions in thought as a parent are
from this same process. I recognize hope easily, and I recognize a hopeless
case easily, too. If something doesn't work and keeps not working, I don't
stubbornly cling to hope. I allow it to die. And allowing hope to die allows
me to overturn my
expectations, fight for the new answer, bring the revolution into the process of becoming a better parent.
Finding hope is good.
Sometimes, losing hope is better.