Sometime in the autumn term, my daughter was invited to take part in a university outreach scheme.
We all assumed this would be a visit to the university with a taster lecture and tutorial session.
It turned out to be rather more than that. She was given a scientific topic (science is her least favourite subject), required to research it, and submit a 2,000-word essay.
The timings were strict but badly communicated, so she was not aware of the correct deadline; neither had she assimilated that points would be deducted for late submission.
Last Monday night, when we realised the essay was due by midnight at the latest, and that it had not been even started was – shall we say – tense.
There was no point in being angry with my daughter. We could neither contact the school nor the university: there was nothing to be done – except provide comfort and a hug.
My own reaction was extreme: I felt I had failed. I had failed to investigate the scheme thoroughly before we agreed to her participation; I had failed to ascertain what work needed to be done and the dates by which it needed to be submitted; I had failed to encourage her to do the work; I had failed to support her as a good mother should. I had failed.
I was desolate. I was more upset than she was!
Fortunately, I saw my therapist that week and she helped me see things in a more balanced light; I was not responsible for the entire mess.
More than that, she helped me address the "It shouldn't be this way!"
The "right" way, of course, is that all communications are clear and precise; all instructions followed exactly and competently with a cheerful heart; all submissions are made fully, on time and (naturally) top marks are obtained.
Oh, what a lovely fantasy that is!
Have you watched the film Forrest Gump? Forrest brings a simplicity to life because he accepts everything as it is without passing judgement on it. It doesn't mean he is not capable of being deeply hurt, but that he doesn't resist the hurt. He can let go and move on.
It's okay to be disappointed that things didn't turn out the way they "should", but that was just a fantasy. Once I brought that fantasy into focus, I could laugh, because life simply isn't like that!
The next day the three of us talked. We agreed that, given her dislike of the subject and the necessity to give priority to her school-work, it would be better for her to withdraw from the scheme.
The world did not end, and her teacher is not angry. It was all a storm in a teacup.
We all have fantasies about the way things "should" be. Most of them shatter when they collide with reality – because they are unrealistic.
Of course, we can aspire to perfection, but – let's get real – it's never going to happen.
A Moodscope member.