There was a period growing up when The Rolling Stones was always playing on our stereo. In dealing with her three rivalrous daughters, Mom had a fairly regular mantra, "You can't always get what you want."
There are probably three times each day when I have to tell my daughter that she can't have something that she really wants (like dessert, or skipping hair washing or a sleepover with Cece on a school night.) No matter how big or small the disappointment, Lucia's frown face is always dinosaur-sized. But her recovery is usually speedy. After a whine, a cry, a kick, she's over it. Usually.
Last week when Lucia really wanted to take a night walk, I blew her off, telling her it had gotten too late. Her disappointment was monstrous and her recovery was not speedy. She had a volcanic melt-down in which, through sobs and head-flailing, she managed to explain that we'd agreed. We had a plan. As I was gearing up to give Lucia my you-can't-always-get-what-you-want speech, I experienced a rare moment or maternal clarity. I understood her disappointment. She wasn't asking me out of the blue to take a night walk. We'd agreed and she'd prepared and she had a plan in her mind. So, in our pajamas, after brushing teeth, we put on our boots and walked to the alley to look at the waning crescent moon and the sun setting over the Olympics. It was lovely.
Since that nanosecond of clarity with Lucia, I've been thinking about my own relationship with disappointment. Whether it is my self-restraint keeping me from buying the $300 boots at Anthropologie, my quiet resolution in accepting that Lucia might not go to a bilingual school, or an unrequited crush, I know the feeling of disappointment. "These things are out of my control" I tell myself. My recovery, like Lucia's, is pretty good. I have the moment, and then I'm over it. There is always the part of me that wants to use the credit card or beg the school district or work magic, but mostly I accept my disappointment and move on.
The next line of the song "You can't always get what you want" is "But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need." And it's true. In the midst of accepting that I can't have everything I want, it becomes glaringly clear to me that I absolutely do have what I need.