My daughter is almost 16 months old. She’s transitioning from baby to toddler, and with that transition has come the expected tantrums, frustrations, and outbursts that will rise to crescendo in coming months. While I know that at some point I need to think about strategies for parenting and coping, right now I find that my natural response to her Very Focused Wanting is laughter.
I laugh when S gets frustrated that I haven’t gotten Bunny off the bed fast enough and I laugh when she whines with annoyance that I haven’t yet opened the bag of Mega Bloks she’s tossed into my lap. When she wants my phone, my keys, or my wallet, I move them out of reach. She huffs. She flails her arms. I laugh.
I laugh. Because in her honest, emotional rawness, S mirrors back to me the same absurd, frustrated response I have to life when it doesn’t go quite as I want. When traffic is busy and I’m late, I get frustrated. When the grocery store doesn’t carry the milk I buy, I whine with annoyance. When I can’t have what I want, I huff. I flail my arms. (I’m pretty sure my husband laughs.)
Because the truth is, most of what S wants and most of what I want is not life-changing. It doesn’t really matter.
The truth is that the important part of all this wanting is learning to step outside it. Learning to appreciate its transient nature.
Learning to let it go, most of the time.
In yogic philosophy, the kleshas are our obstacles to happiness—our self-derived causes of suffering. Raga—unmet desire—is one of these obstacles. When we can’t have what we want, we suffer. The problem is the wanting.
Recognizing the suffering caused by raga in my sweet daughter makes me laugh because it’s self-revealing. Her pint-sized frustrations show me the absurdity of my own. Laughing at her wanting is laughing at my own wanting. Laughing at her wanting is laughing at the human condition of wanting.
And once you can laugh at the absurdity of wanting (but not getting) it ceases to cause suffering.