Both my children attended daycare. Around the age of three, they started repeating the phrase “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” The concept is critical in an environment where twenty toddlers all want the same red ice pop. You get what you are given, and you don’t fuss if it isn’t exactly what you wanted.

Kids pick up all sort of phrases (and germs) in group care. “You get what you get” happens to be one I embrace. Inevitably, my girls will be at a birthday party where someone else gets the last chocolate cupcake or the green balloon they really wanted. It’s only natural to feel disappointed when you see something you want and receive something else. And for things like cupcakes and balloons, the phrase works well.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be thankful for what you have.

This week, as I’ve watched the fallout from the presidential election, this phrase came to mind. Before you start leaving nasty comments, hear me out.

Like many Americans, I paid more attention to this election than any before it. I watched all three debates. I discussed both candidates with coworkers, family and friends. I’m not a political person, at least not a vocal one. I was raised in an Independent household, and I’ve carried that philosophy into my adult life. I’ll admit, I lean a certain way, but politics, for me, has always been very personal.

I’ve always enjoyed learning about different points of view. I want to understand why people make the choices they do. I may not always agree with those views, but I try to hold judgment whenever possible and listen more than I speak. I’ve learned some surprising things and found commonalities in unlikely places.

What has shocked me about this election, and the aftermath, is the intense anger on all sides. I feel it as I walk through the hallways at work. It’s on blogs, bumper stickers, and posters.

As a nation, we can agree on one thing: We’re all pissed.

Maybe your candidate won, maybe your candidate didn’t, but the result seems to be the same: We’re all mad as hell.

So, throughout the week, the phrase “You Get What You Get, and You Don’t Get Upset” kept coming to mind.

We’ve certainly got what we got. But we’re all finding it very hard not to get upset. We are a nation divided in so many obvious and painful ways.

My husband and I have very different political views, yet again and again, we’ve realized we have the same core values.

“We just order them differently,” he says.

As in our marriage, I hold on to the hope that there must be common ground, common values, which make us Americans.

Perhaps I’m being naïve. After all, anger is powerful. It’s even productive, sometimes.

Several times this week, I questioned what my children were really learning with the phrase “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

Sometimes you should get upset. Sometimes you’re wrong not to. Sometimes, you should fight like hell.

But no one has ever changed my mind by shouting at me or by disrespecting my beliefs. I doubt hearing someone scream has ever changed your mind either.

I’m not advocating passivity. I’m not suggesting that we keep our voices down and move along like sheep.

Telling our children “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” only works when “what you get” is of little importance. For a child, the color of your ice pop seems very important. As adults, we know better. But when we get something—something very important—that isn’t what we wanted, or we hear others wanting something we just don’t get, we are upset.

As we move forward, I hope we all listen with an open mind and try to find compromise that benefits everyone.

We are a nation of change. We may get what we get, but unlike an ice pop flavor, we have the power to change it. But first, we need to stop being so angry at each other. We need to get to work.

I will never sit by and watch hatred take control. I will always fight for equality, for fairness. These are the issues important to me. I understand that they may not be as important to everyone. I will get upset. I will get angry. I will fight, but I will try to keep an open mind.

Just remember, generations of Americans before us fought to win the rights we have now. They fought because they were angry, but they persevered because of love: love of this country and love for the people who are fortunate enough to be Americans.

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Kathryn Hively

I started Just BE Parenting as a way to cope with the anxiety of balancing work, motherhood, and the impulse to write. That’s right, I’m not a parenting expert. I, my kids, and my family are perfectly flawed in MANY ways. As a parent, I’m trying to let go of perfection and just BE the best mother I can for my kids. The ‘B’ and ‘E’ in Just BE Parenting also represents the first letters of my children’s names. What works for me and my family may not work for you and yours. That’s ok! Even if we’re not the same, I hope you’ll find something relatable here.


  1. That was a great article and brought up a topic that opened a dialogue between my husband and I about how one can ‘fight’ (for change) without anger. I hope more people read it and have discussions about change. Thank you for more fuel for my passion to change and to write.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! I’ve had to reel myself back a few times when I get too spicy to be constructive.

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