10/22/2014 11:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Compassion 101: Lessons From My Son

It's embarrassing to admit this, but I don't always handle my relationships with all the compassion my family deserves.

I'm thinking of my 12-year-old son in particular.... He's a wonderful kid: outgoing, funny and smart. But with different personalities (and hormones), we occasionally clash like a pair of cymbals.

Recently, we had one of those days. Minutes before leaving for his soccer game Sam couldn't find what he needed, and I threw a fit.

Sam: "What's the big deal, Mom? I can use coach's tape to hold my shin guard on!"
Me: "So your new shin guard sleeve 'disappears' and THAT'S your solution???"

Ummm... actually, it WAS a solution.

And a good one, at that.

As Sam's mom, I want him to learn resourcefulness and responsibility. Sure he can fly by the seat of his pants in a pinch... but is that how he should live his life, only and always?

On the other hand, he is who he is: a confident, loving, outgoing, resourceful young-man-in-the-making. He's learning to solve his own problems, and that is something to celebrate!

This all ran through my mind as we drove to the soccer game. "I need to help him, not jump on him when he loses things," I thought. "I lose things too! I love him so much; I don't want him to go off to his game with this energy between us...."

As we approached the field, I knew I had just a moment to apologize and set things right. But before I could say a word, Sam leaned over, said "I'm sorry, Mom," and gave me the sweetest kiss.


Such a grown up soul in that pre-teen package.... Clearly, I'm not the only teacher in this relationship.

This week I'm making a concerted effort to stop and remember who Sam is: to honor his natural way of being, introduce him lovingly to other possibilities, and step back to let him figure out what works best for him.
2014-10-21-SamandBethhug.jpgGuess while I'm at it, I might as well apply that gentleness to my other relationships too: with my husband, my older son, my mom... even with myself.

Where force shuts down communication, compassion lets us open up and simply Be.

Where can you let yourself be just a little bit more? Where are you holding on so tightly in your life that compassion can barely squeeze through? And what's possible if you let go, just a little bit, that's not possible at the moment?

My challenge for you is this: on a piece of paper, write HOW and WHEN you'll be kinder with yourself this week-- just one place where you could really use self-compassion. Where can you ease up on yourself a bit and treat yourself a little more gently? Post it where you'll see it often (near your computer, perhaps), and then give yourself permission to stick to it.

Here's to a week of gentle learning for us both.