Monday, August 6, 2007


Back in the day, back before kids, back before the weight (literal and figurative) of three kids fell on us, Alex and I were regulars at an Oakland gym that was just starting out. We were a couple of their early clients. In fact, when we were there, there were so few of us clients that they put photos and information about each of us in our very own frame on the wall.

One of the bits of information under each photo was the person's "philosophy." I have no idea what I said, although I'm sure it was endlessly fascinating. What I do remember is most of what Alex said, partly because he used a dorky abbreviation and partly because it was so dorky.

He said (something to the effect of): "Have PMA and you will have success."

PMA stands for Positive Mental Attitude, and apparently Alex didn't just make this up. Other people are familiar with this abbreviation too. (Of course, some people think it stands for Paramethosyamphetamine or Pakistan Marine Academy also.) Did I make fun of Alex at the time for his Mr. Optimism persona? Hell yeah I did. Do I sort of agree with his philosophy now? Don't tell him, but, yeah, I sorta do.

What I believe is, while positivity may not make you happy, negativity will probably make you sad.

There are a lot of people out there who regularly can't see the good things if they are even in the same vicinity as a bad thing.

There are also a lot of people out there who seem to feel like if they are able to point out the faults with everything, it makes them smarter than everyone else. Did you like that big summer blockbuster? Yes? Then you are too dumb to see its great faults, but if I make fun of it all day long, I'm smart, see? (I'm not above criticism, but some people can't seem to just sit back and enjoy stuff.)

And while I try not to be overly negative about things, I do see in myself a tendency to focus on the negative. I'm consciously working against it, and am often successful, but the thing that worries me is that I see that same tendency in Sam.

This is possibly just a five-year-old thing to do, but he'll come out of things like three fun hours of gymnastics, crafts, and snacks at camp and the only think he can think of to say is, "I didn't get to be goose in Duck Duck Goose. I really wanted to be the goose. I'm really sad. I didn't get to be the goose."

Or after school in response to whether he had a good day: "Yeah, but I didn't get to do a job." Or after leaving a playground where all he did was run around, laugh, and play: "I want to give someone a hug goodbye. I don't want to leave until I give someone a hug goodbye." Well, Sam, everyone has left, but wasn't it fun to play here? "Noooooo! I want to give someone a hug goodbye! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

This is possibly because things that disappoint make a bigger impression than things that are fun (and it may be because he's tired, or it may be because five-year-olds are inherently jerks), but I would really rather it be the other way around for him. I often dwell on the negative and it's not a happy way to be. I don't want that for him. I just wish I knew a more, ahem, positive way of communicating that to him other than yelling at him, "Be positive! Be positive! Stop being so negative!"

You may think I'm joking, but I've really done that. Effective, don't you think? I know, I'm a really good mom. But I have been working on modeling more positive behavior and pointing out positive things when I see them. And maybe, just maybe, if I succeed in making him a more positive person, I will have made myself a more positive person in the process.

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