I am fairly not quite almost sure it was Cicero who once opined, “Omnia rosae spina.” If not him, then surely the philosophers who comprised the American glam rock group Poison offered this in their contemplative lyrics: “Every rose has its thorn.”

Discovering this truism firsthand as she fell into a rose bush on Monday, Katie now has a long scratch down her back. She wailed when it first happened, not just for the pain but because this is a young person who does not like the faintest of marks upon her skin. Those prints made by socks and pants? Oh yes. Like any decent mother, I usually turn an assessment of prints into a case for more water consumption in my preoccupation with trying to hydrate my children.

Naturally she did not want to submerge her scratch in the bath on the first night. (I have made almost zero headway in my years-long quest to persuade her that clean cuts are an advantage). She held her head over the bath so I could wash her hair, and we sponged off the rest of her. I have, however, managed to convince her over a long campaign that it is now our “tradition” to bathe any cut on the second night she has it.

Last night her scratch, which is healing quickly, itched a bit. She can’t quite reach it, so I itched around it for her while we read our bedtime stories and cuddled. It was then that she summarized her findings: “Rose bushes are bad.”

Wait, wait. It was time to get Socratic.

The discussion was a good one, and gentle, questioning. We spoke of balance. How everything and everyone and every experience has a dual nature. Looking for the good, instead of looking for the bad. How something can be good for one person and possibly bad for another. Optimism and pessimism. Choosing how to frame our responses to what happens to us. As I rubbed around her scratch, I hoped so much that she would begin to understand.

I know this is a theme we will revisit our whole lives. Those of us who know us best have observed that Katie and I can portray such opposite personalities. At age 5 (and 4 and 3 and 2…) Katie’s thoughts tend to skew toward what is not going right, what issue there might be with the positive execution of a request/instruction/advice, why something might not work or might be to her disadvantage, etc. I can usually cajole her, reason with her, offer evidence, etc. Other times, I am impatient and tell her to stop it. If I were perfect all the time, I would be the picture of patience, but I’m not. Few things are more of a pet peeve to me than not thinking positively. This in no way means she isn’t cheerful: she has many moments of levity and silliness and pleasure and happiness, too.

Even today, when I asked her to put on her socks, she started getting upset about how she can’t quite do it yet. She is so hard on herself when she doesn’t get something the first time, and it will frustrate her. This is my biggest challenge as her teacher—dealing with her self-frustration and the tendency to want to shut down. At the same time, I am so thankful that I am her teacher because I am certain that I can do a better job at coaching her past this tendency than anyone else could with her. Although there are so many things she does pick up immediately, there are going to be other things she is going to need time and practice to master.  So she got a pep talk all the way to music class.

Today I encouraged her to work backwards. “I do not know of any 30 year olds who can’t put on their socks,” I told her, borrowing a line of thought from my Aunt Diane and my Aunt Donna. “So the first thing to do is to tell yourself that you will not fail at putting on your socks in the long run. You know you will be like everyone else and able to put on your socks.” (She laughed here). “If you practice enough and give it enough time, you will not fail.” We talked about how releasing ourselves from the oppression of the possibility of failure—and choosing hope and optimism instead—will lessen her feelings of anxiety: her “stomach butterflies” as she calls them. We might not succeed the first time at putting on our socks, but that doesn’t mean we will always be unable to do it. We cannot control how good we are at something right away, but we can always control the time, practice, and attitude we put into learning it. If we are optimistic about it, then we do not have to let a fear of failure get in our way.

I fully believe that being an optimist (an optimist with a pragmatist’s way of getting to the goal) has served me well in this life. As much as I myself am prone to worry, I am ultimately hopeful and certain that things will “work out.” How do I teach this to my daughter? I will spend my life doing my best to understand how she sees the world, and I know that neither of us necessarily has it “right.” Plus, we are beholden to our genetic inclinations here. I know, too, that we are both so intense in our own ways. While I worry that she tends to see the negative first, perhaps she holds it at a much more surface level than I do. Maybe vocalizing it is her way of dealing with it…maybe that is her way of giving negativity less power. I’m not sure… I feel like when we put negative things into words, we give them more power over us, not less. From a pragmatic view, I have yet to see the function that complaining serves in getting us to our goals. I do understand infrequent venting as a pressure-release, but focusing on all the things that could go wrong…or why something might not be able to be done… Doesn’t that just create more obstacles for ourselves? Aren’t we better off just trying our best, then trying our best again? Every time we try to put on our socks, we get closer to meeting the goal.

Rose bushes have beautiful flowers and heavenly scent—aren’t they a goodness?

And when she looks inside of herself: how do I make sure that she sees the good in herself by the time I leave this Earth? We are all dual-natured. How we acknowledge that and what plan we make to deal with that fact during our lives can make all the difference. If she feels stress about not being able to put on her socks, then how will she deal with the fact that we all have failures of character? Will she make plans to deal productively with those traits, or will she feel crushed by them?

We think her rose bush scratch might leave a bit of a scar when it is done healing. We talked a bit about what that would mean. She’s okay with it. It will be a reminder of how there is good and bad in every bit of life and experience in this universe. May she always find a way to turn her face towards the sun, and may I find the ways and words to help her to do that.

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