Acceptance is a Form of Love

Veronica was fussing over the packing details – was there enough shampoo for the whole trip? Did she have a warm enough sweater if the weather turned cool? Would there be room for the souvenirs or should she take an extra tote? The list of things to worry about went on and on.
Dan, who’d finished packing for himself hours ago, wandered into the bedroom and found her literally pulling on her hair, as she always did when stressed.
“Ronnie, how’s it going?”
She shared her litany of concerns, he shared his opinions when asked (plenty of shampoo, take an extra jacket, he had room for souvenirs, etc.), and he wandered back downstairs to watch TV. As he sat down on the couch, his son, Max, laughed and said, “I bet Mom’s having her usual packing meltdown. Doesn’t it make you crazy? Why don’t you tell her to chill?”
Dan smiled at Max and shrugged. “Look, I don’t fuss the way your mom does, but it’s her way. It doesn’t cost me anything when she does this – she doesn’t make me stay and fuss with her. It’s just how she handles the stresses of traveling. I admit that I don’t see the point exactly, but so what? It’s her way.”
“Dad,” Max said, with the wisdom of all of his 14 years, “she’s worrying about nothing. It seems stupid. Why not just explain to her why it’s dumb?”
Dan laughed. “First of all, she doesn’t agree that it’s dumb. She thinks it’s ‘thorough’. Secondly, it wouldn’t change anything. She’d feel just as anxious; she’d just feel she had to hide it from me. Part of loving someone is helping them to feel that they can be who they are with you. I love your mom. I don’t need her to do everything my way for me to love her. I actually find this nuttiness endearing.”
“You like when Mom acts like a nutcase?”
“Max, your mom is smart and competent 98% of the time. This is just one of her most human traits. It’s no big deal when she has these bonkers moments. It’s harmless; cut her some slack. Besides, you have your own human moments. Don’t you like it when the people who love you accept them, and accept you?”
Max bristled. “Like what?”
“Like when you have to stop at every store window on Main Street to look at your reflection and check your hair. Like having to eat macaroni and cheese for luck before every basketball game.”
“See? We could explain to you that it’s ‘dumb’, or we can just accept it as part of you. We love you, it’s harmless, so we accept it. It’s the loving thing to do.”
Veronica walked into the family room in time to hear the last part of the conversation. She walked over to them, ruffled Max’s hair as she passed, and gave Dan a hug.
“So, sweetheart, when are we leaving for the airport in the morning?”
“The flight’s at 8, so I figure we’re good if we get there at 5. I’ll set the alarm for 3:30.”
“Dear, you know we only have to be there two hours early and it only takes 20 minutes to get to the airport.”
“Nonsense, Ronnie; you just never know about traffic or about airports.”
“Yes, dear. Three hours it is.”
And she turned and winked at Max as she kissed Dan on the head and then walked quietly away, smiling.

About Benna Sherman Ph.D.

My Ph.D. is in counseling psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. I am licensed in the state of Maryland where I have been practicing as a therapist since 1989. I specialize in therapy for individuals and couples, seeing adults of all ages. I enjoy working with men and women, LGBTQ or straight. My style as a therapist is active, pragmatic, and holistic. I see therapy as an active collaboration between me and the patient. I have a particular interest in the mind-body connection and offer a mindfulness-based stress management program.