So, to refresh your memory. Here is the poem from the Tao Te Ching that I posted the other day and wondered if it were a prescription for mothering.
In the pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.
True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can’t be gained by interfering.
So let’s take today, shall we? Middle was at a regatta today. Far away. I knew from the schedule that he had a race early in the morning and another midmorning. When I got up this morning, I checked the weather where he was. It was going to be cooooold for a California boy. I wondered if he had the right clothes to wear. I considered calling him and then refrained. I didn’t want to bug him as they were getting ready. As the clock ticked toward race time, I thought of him. How was the course? Was he warm? Was he nervous? Ah, they must be racing right now! I checked the website for the regatta, which promised "results in real time." Not. I picked up the phone and dialed his cell. No answer. I didn’t leave a message. Time passed, as it is wont to do.
"I guess they must not have done very well," I said to Mate, "otherwise he would have called."
The next race approaches. Still no results on the web. I consid texting him. I pick up the phone, but at the last minute, I refrain.
As I put the phone down, I think of Lao Tzu. What would be gained by interfering? Well for one thing, my curiosity would be appeased. That is something, but not, I admit, very much. Oh, wait, if I am honest I know I have some anxiety too. I worry they won’t do well. I worry he will catch a crab and ruin the chances for the whole boat. I worry, a little, that they might flip into the almost icy waters of the lake. So, if I interfer, if I act on my anxiety, I would be taking care of myself.
So what? Can’t I take care of myself once in a while? Of course I can. But do I need to right now?
Lao Tzu says, "True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way."
"Let’s see what happens," I think to myself, "if I do not act."
He called. Eventually.
Without preamble. "MOM, it is SOOOO COLD HERE…" He is off. Describing the race, the freezing waters, how they circled for 45 minutes in their racing tanks, how it was so cold that the University of Washington, whose home course it is, bailed out of racing.
Here is what I get for my non-action. A jumble of news, details, exclamations and excitement. They came in third in the first race. They are waiting on results in the second.
"I may have to stick to California if it is this cold everywhere else."
"I want to go to the Space Needle but don’t know if we have time before we have to be at the airport."
"Norcal flipped after the finish and they had to call ambulances and paramedics because the water was so cold they got hypothermia!"
I ask, "Are you warm enough now?"
"Yes, I left my puffy jacket on the trailer but it is coming back and I have my sweatshirt on."
"You should drink some hot chocolate."
"I am! They have a Starbucks truck."
Briefly, I act. "Whaaaat?" He well knows I boycott Starbucks.
"Mom, it’s FREE. I’m exploiting them! I’m downing many free shots of hot chocolate!"
We laugh. He hangs up.
If I had acted, if I had called or texted or otherwise insisted on my needs being met, much would probably have been the same. But Middle would not have had the experience of agency, the ownership of his day up through and including the telling. And that would have been a loss.
Nothing was done. So nothing was left undone.