How I earned my white belt in desire.

As Ben lay his head down on the pillow, he said to me with unbridled excitement, “I can’t wait to get my white belt tomorrow!”

My immediate thought was this: He’s not getting his white belt on the first day of class! He’s going to be so disappointed when he finds this out…

“Ben, I don’t think they give out white belts the first day of class. Don’t get your hopes up, okay?” His face immediately crumbled + squished into a cry and tears pooled in his eyes. “I’m not talking to you!” he shouted. “You just ruined all my happiness!”

And this is what we do, right?

With love in our hearts, we try to protect our kids from sadness and pain. We try to shield them from what we think will hurt more – being blindsided by disappointment. It’s vulnerable to want something. Especially if we don’t know if we will get it. We would rather say to ourselves, Well, it probably won’t happen. Or, It would be nice if it happened, but I don’t really care. We get so good at protecting ourselves that often our desires never even make it to our radar.

I could see in this moment with Ben that I really was ruining his happiness. I was squashing his delight. I was telling him in some subtle way to not want what he might not be able to have. Probably because I couldn’t be with the vulnerability of it.

Could I have just let him have his excitement?


The next day we went to karate class. And after breaking a board in two, Ben earned his white belt. ON THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS.

And me? I earned a valuable lesson in desire. (Maybe even a white belt)

We want what we want. We will get it or we won’t.

But it takes courage to want something. It leaves us vulnerable and that’s why it feels scary.

But to desire is our birthright. And maybe even half the fun. Maybe even half the joy.





  1. Shosh
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    He is totally awesome. I love the “holy cow” at the end : )

  2. Jody
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful post. thank you for sharing this tender story. I don’t know what I love more, how beautifully he expressed himself with “you just ruined all my happiness!” or the expression on his face when he turned after breaking the board…I’m actually laughing and weeping at my desk at work. For you. and for your lovely boy. and for a profound but quiet lesson…it’s so hard not to be all “parent-y” all the time…thanks for this. I needed this one this week…

  3. Posted March 19, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m reminded of a scene from The Hours where Clarissa talks about getting up in the morning with a great sense of possibility. “And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.” To me, this is a reminder to recognize happiness NOW. When that sense of possibility comes around, it IS happiness. So, I’d like to say that desire, in the way you describe it, isn’t half the joy, but joy period. Looking forward to something and feeling happy in that looking forward is happiness no matter if it turns out the way we hope or not. No joyous moment is ever a waste.

    It took years and years for me to learn this, and I was brought up just like the way you describe. I was told to not get my hopes up and I got so good at it that for a while I wasn’t even able to recognize desire. (Which lead to depression, I might add.) Desire meant danger. (Which is not the same thing as “scary”, things can be scary without being even the slightest bit dangerous.)

    So, I think you’re on the right track. White belt for sure! Ben is lucky to have mum like you. :)

  4. Posted March 19, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh Camilla… you said this so beautifully! and deepened the conversation for all of us. Thank you!!!
    Going to re-read what you shared.

  5. Charlaine
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I was just watching yesterday a video of Marshall Rosenberg doing a training on Nonviolent Communication. He said “Empathy before education.” Love the reminder. Thank you, Andrea, for your heart-full stories, and for sharing the growing moments awakened by your very wise son.

  6. Posted March 19, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Holy Cow!

  7. Posted March 19, 2014 at 11:13 pm | Permalink


    I love that boy.

    I feel so blessed to share in his life through your posts!

  8. Meg
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Andrea, thank you for this story. It is just what I needed. Touching and honest and so real. Our children are such wonderful teachers full of wisdom and truth.

  9. Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Wow…I remember when I was in Junior HIgh, and was nominated for Homecoming Queen. I was a tomboy, played the drums in Band, and I think I may have been nominated by the football team as a joke. But when I told my father, he said, “Don’t get your hopes up…you probably won’t be voted to win.” I’m 46, and still remember clearly how soul-crushing that comment was. And to this day, way back in my mind, I wonder if that comment, made with love, I am sure; but how it has affected the way I view myself and my worth every time I have a conversation with him. Powerful, powerful lesson…thank you for sharing your vulnerability regarding your point of view as a parent. Love this!!

  10. Posted March 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    I have been having a rough few weeks and seeing Ben break that board was AWESOME. Something about him doing it – so empowering. Here’s to all his karate belts to come.

  11. Posted March 23, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Permalink


    “Holy Cow.”


  12. Posted March 24, 2014 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    This brought a tear to my eye: for that ruined happiness, for watching Ben succeed, for his “holy cow!” joy, and for seeing myself and those I love in all of it. Thank you!

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