Worth the Pain

Toddlers don’t always handle transition well, especially if they are asked to transition from an activity they particularly enjoy to one that they are less enthusiastic about.

We try to limit screen time, but will let our daughter watch the occasional YouTube video of a favorite animal or song or show her photos of a new baby on our Facebook pages. She is always overjoyed to get to watch a show and I love that beaming face of hers. But then there is the aftermath. Turning off the show usually results in a battle. A loud, teary, battle.

Sometimes I wonder if the moments of contented peace were worth it.

Few things light up my daughter like a snack. And then the snack runs out. Sometimes it’s okay and she will just move on to the next thing. Sometimes it results in a complete meltdown.

And then I wonder was it worth that lit up face if it ends with tears?

There are countless other things that delight my child–playing under the covers of our bed, being chased up and down the hallway, going outside to explore–and they are all so perfectly splendid while we are in the middle of the activity, but as soon as it has to end, we enter tantrum town.

And every time we cross the border into the land of screaming, weeping, and occasionally hitting, I struggle to cling to the joy that we were just sharing together moments before. And I wonder if it was worth it.

Short answer: It was.

Slightly longer answer: It doesn’t always feel like it.

Digging a little deeper: It isn’t just the toddler who reacts this way when good things come to an end.

It dawned on me that I do this same kind of thing all the time in my creative life:

Why bother maintaining a daily writing habit? It’s all going to fall apart when the new baby arrives.

Why take the time to hire a babysitter so I can finally go to that drop-in improv class? I will probably love it and then be miserable that I won’t be able to go regularly.

Writing that murder mystery party was so much fun. I have no idea when or if anyone will ever hire me to create something like that again. This stinks.

Reading over each of those items, I ask myself, was it or will it be worth the seemingly inevitable separation pains? And of course, the answer is yes. Taking the time to flex my creative muscles is and always will be worth it. But it’s incredible how easily the negativity seeps in and sabotages things. Doing these things makes me happy. It shouldn’t matter that the occasional or sometimes frustratingly long absence of some of them will sadden me. The sadness can be my friend, if I let it. It can be a reminder that this stuff matters.

Even if I can’t commit to my creative projects as much as I’d like while balancing my life as a parent, they are still important and I should do whatever I can to embrace pockets of creativity as a part of my crazy existence. If I shrug off the chances to write, to go to a class, or to teach a one-off theatre workshop somewhere–then I’m more miserable than I would be if I had seized those opportunities and then had to lay them to rest for a bit. Good things end and make way for more good things.

I’m a grown woman and it’s not acceptable for me to throw tantrums when something splendid fades into the past tense. Unlike a toddler, I have foresight. I have experience. I know that more splendid somethings will come. I just have to be open to them and seize them when they do. I may even have to go digging for them like buried treasure. Sure, I’ll have to miss some opportunities too. But not all of them. No matter what, no matter how sad I might feel when a creative project is over, I can remind myself that this is not the end. Playtime will always come back.



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