Have you ever poured lemonade for children? Do you notice how they eye the glass carefully so that it is exactly the same height? I had an experience like this during a recent sleepover. When one glass was poured a little more than the other, our little guest replied a little crossly, “Next time I’ll pour!”
For me, this became a thought-provoking comment. Yes, the words may come from a child, but what is the thought that lies behind it? You see, it’s not a thought that’s limited to children. Many adults think this way, too. It’s just that we adults have learned not to stamp our feet and cry out “It’s not fair”. We call it “disappointment”, or “unjustified”. Some adults go to other adults with more authority to complain. Some stop speaking to you, or give you the cold shoulder. Yes. It’s a thought that spans all ages of humanity, not just children.
In speaking to my child later about his views, he thought it was all a bit silly. “Because,” he said. “There was more lemonade in the bottle.”
In reflecting back, I realise he had made an important insight in his young life – that even though there was what there was in the glass, there was more somewhere else (ie. abundance).
The scarcity mentality featured very strongly in my early years of growing up and early adulthood. Eg. Only a few people can get A grades, only a few are really clever, money is scarce, sharing came from the sense that there was not enough. I did not grow up with the sense that there could be more where that came from, … or elsewhere. The impact of that is that I was often very tight, uptight, stressed, concerned, worried, and wondering where the next “one” was coming from. I also had a strong notion of an unarticulated “it’s not fair” or “how come they can get it and I can’t”. If everything is a scarcity, and we all started at the same point, then everyone and everything should start out at the same point. That would be fair. Afterall, how many of us have the image of looking at a baby and thinking that the world was at its feet?
Yes, it is true that this little innocent child can do anything it wants in the world. And, at the same time, it is not. Let’s get real. The opportunities that come to each baby is very different, and we do start from different points. But if we have an expectation that it should be fair, then we’re constantly looking at “what’s not there” – hence the scarcity mentality.
It also means looking at our language and considering how we can impart the intent without setting up a scarcity mentality. But it’s really not that easy and I struggle with this sometimes. Take the example of children sharing lollies in a jar. There’s definite scarcity happening. Once the lollies are gone, they are gone. Sharing therefore isn’t a good thing. It means that there’s less for them. I truly can understand why children grab lollies and run.
As I have learned, so I have taught. What I’ve tried to pass on is that “Life is not fair” and I’ve told myself and my son that many times since. “Life isn’t fair. It’s what we do with it that counts” and “There’s more where that came from. We just have to figure out how.” I didn’t always believe it in the beginning. But I recant it to myself every time I need to. I also manage my behaviour, that is, I don’t become a “drama queen” over how “life is not fair”. What I find is that it gives me a lot of freedom to accept a situation as it is, then the power to do something about it. When I am able to hang on to the notion that what I want is out there (the “abundance”), then what is within my control is my ability to get to it. If I buy into the notion that someone else has what I want, then it is no longer within my ability and control to get it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating giving children everything they want, in order to set up the abundance in their lives. This sets up poor boundaries. Though it should be noted that even people who come from the wealthiest families may have scarcity mentalities.
So you see, my son’s lemonade in a bottle comment is very heartening for me as a parent. I know that I will not always be able to give him the best – eg. the very best school in this country (there isn’t yet enough abundance in my bank account to afford it), or the very biggest house, or the very best tutors to get the very best school results, etc. I do know that he understands something I didn’t at 10 years old, and that he understands something that many adults don’t. Will he go far with it? I don’t know. But what does “far” mean anyway? But will he be happier and more contented than most people? Probably. And really that’s what I as a parent am most interested in. That my son is happy and is acquiring the skills to manage his own happiness.
All this from lemonade in a bottle. Bet you thought lemonade was only for drinking.