In talking with my Junior in college daughter the other day, she used the word frustrating a half dozen times. So many times that the word jumped out, not so much as an idiosyncrasy, but as a condition of how she felt which brought her mom and I to attention. She described several instances of her life where she was frustrated. One instance was an epiphany where she felt it was time to grow up and take care of herself. College is a time when that realization is cause for joy, but my daughter expressed frustration. Granted, she was looking at her behavior relative to her desires and saw a major gap there. She is also training for a triathlon, plays on a soccer team (another point of frustration), and cooks her own food, is getting mostly A’s in school, has been pursued by the school to be a leader, and is newly enjoying the attention of a young man (another point of frustration).
Which brings me to my definition of frustration: The emotional sensation that is felt when reality falls dramatically short of expectations. One doesn’t feel frustration when the movie you just spent $10 on is horribly below expectations. There’ll be another movie down the road. One doesn’t feel frustration when the food you ordered is cold or unsatisfying. The next meal will be better. One feels frustration when the things that have longer term meaning are getting off course. The frustration sensation is the opposite of flow.
The question is: Is frustration a consequence or a choice?
As a parent your desire is for your children to be competent when they go off to college. To be able to take in life’s issues, extract meaning, provide value, and come away at the end of most days with a feeling of positive engagement. You want them to grow and that growth be invigorating. Frustration connotes baggage, misunderstanding, shallowness. Not good traits. The fruits of the spirit would indicate joyous engagement, a cup that runneth over, and a depth of understanding that provides appropriate context to life. Frustration isn’t a fruit.
An aspect of frustration is shallowness. Young girls engage in petty issues that are generically referred to as “high school”. This flighty aspect of the female nature can be overcome, but it can also be like a magnet. If one lives around it, like in a dorm, then having shallowness resonate in your perspectives is understandable. If one is engaged in petty squawking, it is easy to view life’s circumstances with a depth that lacks context.
Should this inner conflict grow, my daughter would not be the fountain of joy that I know her to be. She is light and easy, funny and mature. But one thing she is not is permanently shallow. So today’s issue is a temporary loss of “peace”. Personal depth indicates a maturity that rests on principles whereas shallowness is tossed about by circumstances, emotions, and intentions. Depth has at its core a peace with a bias towards the understanding that circumstances change, usually for the better, and patience is a virtue. The serenity prayer is one such principle:
“Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can,
The patience to accept the things I can’t,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
As a parent, it is imperative to be the adult when parenting, to not get ‘caught up’ in the tumult of circumstances. One must BE an example of depth, patience, and maturity. You can’t fake this to your kids, but must practice it in all aspects of life. Your fruit will show your kids what kind of tree you are. Frustration is a choice – in the long run. It indicates a lack of depth, perspective, patience, and FAITH! Faith that life will ultimately work out for those who are positive, joyous, and giving. The more you believe in these principles, the less likely you are to be shallow and frustrated. As a result, your children will gravitate to who you’ve demonstrated the correct way to be. It’s not what you say, but who you are that will largely define your children.
Gain depth and perspective and your children will follow you.