Between Love and Selfishness

Red roses on Sant Jordi

When we talk about love a lot of times it comes down about satisfying one’s needs. Yeap, in the down to earth approach people are looking to satisfy their needs and desires. They want to hear nice words, receive gifts, be treated like someone special, be the one and the only, be respected, be comforted, be assured. In one word be loved.

This is not love. This is selfishness. And it is completely opposite to what love is.

Love in its essence is giving. Is the ability to give, to be generous, not to expect anything in return. To love is to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable over and over again, even if the other deceives us. To love is to hope. It is to hope that what we give will be accepted and appreciated. It is not about the hope to receive the same gifts in return. Love is never fair. This is why it is wonderful. It is our amazing ability to hope beyond our rationality. And as the life shows, this hope is stronger and more powerful than any rational thoughts or acts. Real love always wins (if one can use the word win here). You just have to ask yourself if what you feel is love (i.e. an impulse to give) or is it a desire to satisfy your needs, to validate your feeling and to get the same in return. These are the two ends of the same line. You have to figure out where you stand. Is it 80/20 or 50/50 or 20/80? The greater is the first number the happier you will be, as the first one depends totally on you.

This morning started at 6am with my son and daughter running around the house. They were excited to give roses to their teachers and friends. It is the Sant Jordi Holiday in Catalonia. As the legend says on that day a cavalier named Jordi slaughtered a dragon to save a princess. From the dragon’s blood red roses grew and Jordi gave one to the princess. Since then, every year on the April 23rd the men give red roses to the women. Not just to the women they are in love with or married to, but to many women that are part of their lives. And women give men a book (sometimes), to remind them of the legend and the cavaliers. It is a beautiful tradition, because it is based on giving. My 3 year old son jumped his way to the daycare with two red roses in his hands. One for his teacher and one for his 2 year old friend Paula. He was extremely happy all the way there and he was extremely shy when he gave the roses to the ladies. It is ok to be shy. This is what to be a cavalier means, to do good things to others even if you are shy or afraid or unsure. As parents I feel we should learn to give with love. This is the only way our children will be able to do so too.

Love (and giving) shows itself in small details, in our everyday life. It is not always easy to practice it. A lot of times we do not notice where we could give, we are too busy, too shy, too self-conscious, too rational. We also have to protect ourselves from the outside world, from others, and we wear our “street” clothing (our selfish selves) with a great smile and encouraging greetings.  We become waterproof. We are aware of our needs and desires more than we are of love and giving.

Once I take my waterproof jacket off, I know that there is one single feeling that is able to illuminate me from inside. It is also the most important thing is life Love.

Note: As the author of this post, I have to add that this very morning I have been mean at least six times and more that I do not remember. To love and to give is not simple at all, it is natural for us to be selfish, but I think we should try to be better when we have a chance and can. If you consciously realize that you can change somebody’s day by giving (a smile, a rose, a nice word, an orange, a gift, some help), then do not shy away, do it! Sort of as a monthly experiment! I will do so too.

Princesses and Cavaliers

Princess and cavalier

Kids were running around on the Bonanova plaza. “I am a princess, I am a princess,” shouted the girls. “Monster, monster,” cried my almost three-year-old son, and with his imaginary sword started to fight an imaginary monster. “I am a princess, and the cavalier is defending me,” said one of the girls. “You can’t be a princess, because I am a princess,” said the other girl. “No, no, I am a princess,” said the third one. “Then I will be a queen, and you will be the two princesses.” After a three minute argument it was decided that one of the girls would be a pink-dressed princess and another one would be a purple-dressed princess. “What are you going to be,” they asked my daughter. “I will be a horse,” and my daughter started to trot like a horse around the plaza not paying any attention to the princesses. “If my brother is a cavalier, then I will be his horse. A cavalier needs a horse. Can I be your horse?” she asked her brother. The little cavalier nodded without stopping his imaginary fight with the monster and told his sister that her name will be Titan. Titan is my son’s favorite pony, sometimes we take him back-riding in a local pony club and he always wants to ride Titan.

There we were, a group of parents watching our kids play on a sunny afternoon after school. My three-year-old imagining himself to be a cavalier and fighting imaginary monsters. My five-year-old trotting around the plaza like a horse and making all the adequate noises. She was totally absorbed by her horse character. And her five-year-old friends were grouped in the middle of the plaza discussing what kind of princesses they would be.

I am wondering if all the girls naturally want to be princesses or is it something that the society heavily pushes on them and their parents support? I honestly do not think that eighty percent of the girls prefer pink and purple to all other colors, and that they mainly want to play princesses. It is the media and the society that tells our daughters that this is what the girls should like and be like. And we as a parents are just lazy. We do not use our own judgment  because it is always easier to go with the flow. Do not get me wrong, there is nothing bad in wanting to be a princess. But is it really pink that makes one?

I think that we greatly misunderstand what being a princess or a cavalier means. It is not about dresses, it is not about owing a spade or a knife, it is not about wearing pink. It is about patience, it is about education, it is about manners, it is about deep feelings, honesty and integrity. Occasionally I saw girls, that appeared to me real princesses. I saw them at the cafe or at  a party. And by the way they hold their cup, by the way they wait their turn to speak, by they way they can ask you a question or give you a compliment, and be honest and fresh in their words, by all that they remained me of real princesses. And by their genuine and open smiles too. And I, like everybody else, felt lucky to be around them. I even stole some tips from those children, and tried to pass them to my own.

There is nothing wrong with wanting our sons to be cavaliers and our daughters to be princesses. Not in words or color of the dress though, but in the essence of the concept.

I often question myself how to teach our children to be patient, to use their own judgment and to be able to think for themselves. To meditate, and to stop and breath through difficult situations, and not to be guided only by their emotions. I wonder how to encourage in them the deep feelings and attachment towards others, towards the people that surround them. We read books that talk about honesty and beauty. I tell them stories and I talk to them about what surrounds us. Yes, I also try to teach them manners, to show them how to be genuinely interested in others. And, no, I do not think that manners are old-fashioned. I ask myself how to encourage them to learn to listen and to ask questions about others. To always look tidy and clean. To never say “I want” or “Buy me this”. And, finally, words do not matter that much. Kids learn from us, from how we behave, from what they are exposed to in their everyday life. And my yardstick as a parent is to watch myself more than I ever did before, to be a good example to them. To never be lazy. And, of course, to offer them all existent colors to dress in, to like and to play with.

And then, if my daughter decides that she prefers pink, I am fine with that.

Barcelona, January 31st 2013