I feel a little bad starting a post about quitting complaining by grumbling about my son. But if enduring his world-class whinging and whining has been worth anything, it’s been to teach me that embracing change is the secret to stopping complaining…to waking up one morning with nothing to carp about and everything to appreciate.
Little Yang has already won an Olympic Gold Medal, and he just turned three today (Happy Birthday little man). He’s claimed Gold for world’s best (or worst) Whiner, I’m sure of it. He takes to whinging with all the determination of the Ox that he is, so it’s whining in overdrive. And lately at least, what he’s mostly been complaining about, loud and long, is change. He’s fighting it with every moan, wail and whimper, with his last breath and often a steady stream of tears. And sometimes I even feel sorry for him.
You see turning three puts him into ‘big boy land’ when he so wants to stay safe in ‘baby territory’, or at least part of him does. With toilet training now almost there (I hesitate to commit that thought to publication lest I jinx the whole process, since the poo side of things is still a work in progress) and with him settling into the big room at kindy, growing up is happening to him whether he likes it or not.
He didn’t want to really bother with his birthday – he’d hold up three fingers less-than- enthusiastically and sprout that he’d be ‘three’, yet when asked would happily say that he was still a baby, not a big boy. Even with the prospect of presents, he wasn’t too enthused about growing up.
And his main weapon against growing up, against change, is whinging – clinging to my leg like a limpet, wanting to be picked up all the time, crying to get attention, clambering all over my lap, putting his fingers in his mouth and retreating from independence to want me to do everything for him.
Litte Yang’s regression back to babyhood (if I can call it that) is probably normal toddler behaviour on the cusp of little boyhood. And it’s been exacerbated by me being crazy busy at work and preoccupied, which of course hasn’t helped my capacity to deal with his complaints in a mature, motherly way (read yelling and screaming).
On the other hand, Mr Yang has been doing the whole ‘just grow up’ discipline thing, which just sends Little Yang wailing back to me as a ‘mummy’s boy’. It’s the classic story. And I don’t expect a miraculous change from terrible twos into terrific threes (but miracles can happen, can’t they?).
With the wise words of Reinhold Neibuhr’s Serenity Prayer ‘God grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’ ringing in my ears, I’m finding that I’m wise to accept Little Yang’s need to complain about growing up, while at the same time changing my reaction to his complaints, since they are certain to continue.
Of course it would be so easy if he simply quit complaining and started accepting (change that is). But how can I expect him to do that if I can’t (or won’t) change my reaction to his complaints.
I have to accept that rather than withdrawing through fear (as Miss Yin is prone to do in her passive opposition to growing up) that Little Yang’s way of coping with his fear of change is to complain about it, as loudly and fiercely as he can. It’s the same apprehension being expressed, just with more noise.
And when I change my reaction to the whinging, with quiet words, I calm his fears. And he changes, for the better.
When I reward his acts of independence with cuddles, I reinforce that he will always be my baby even when he’s my big boy. The high-fives are fine, but you never outgrow cuddles. And then he starts to want to grow up just as he should (just not too fast please!).
Our complaints are simply loud signals from within ourselves that we need to change – either the situation we find ourselves in or our reaction to it (and often both). And the louder we whine, the more we need to change. Our complaints may sound like tirades against everything others have done wrong or the unfairness of the world (like having world-class whinger for a son), but they give much deeper expression to our fears about changing our situation, our own reaction to it, our own selves (far easier to complain than to change).
Change is the only (if hard) way we ever conquer our fears and silence our complaints – through the yin grace of acceptance to embrace a new perspective on the same situation, and the yang energy of our own actions to bring about change when we can. In reality acceptance is just as much of an action (even if it’s called a reaction) as actually bringing about change. And the hard work of acceptance is the first step in change.
I think this lesson applies at 3 or 93, just better to learn it earlier rather than later. We grow (up and stronger, deeper) when we change. And you know what happens when we stop growing!
So quit complaining, and start changing – I’m trying to. And so, at just 3, is Little Yang.
*Photo of Little Yang with the nappies (diapers) he no longer needs (he’s even dry at night). But he’s still timid about all this growing up business.