People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
We all live by rules, whether we choose to live by our own set, those laid down by The Man, or some combination of the two that ignores the most inconvenient while highlighting the most beneficial from each set. I’m in that last group, which I extend by writing rules for those around me as my little way of giving something back to the community.
Over the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to come up with a series of new rules:
- If you leave your dog in the back of the truck, secure him there, so he doesn’t run out into a chaotic intersection and cause everyone on the bus to have a heart attack.
- If you pay with cash in the express line, either do not insist on giving exact change or do not lose your flippin’ coin purse and proceed to search for 20 minutes through all the compartments of your bag, which appears large enough to hold the entire Philadelphia Mint.
- On the bus: When the air conditioning is on, no opening windows. Also, no polishing your nails or introducing any other caustic carcinogens.
All of these can be boiled down to one simple phrase: Pay attention, people!
- Leave your dog in your truck at a busy intersection? Fine. Weather permitting, we leave Barky in our car all the time; he loves it. But we ensure that he can’t follow his instincts and jump out and run around.
- Pay with cash? Fine–although I mostly say this because Mom used to, not because I understand the need for cash anymore. However, if it takes you 20 minutes to use cash, you shouldn’t be in the express lane, even if you’re only buying a box of toothpicks.
- Too hot on the bus? Me too. Now that you’ve opened the windows, we’re all even hotter. And you’re not quite ready for work until you put that fifth coat of shellac onto your nails? Too bad. Public transit isn’t all about you–it’s about us. If you want to run your a/c with the windows down, if you want to huff nail polish fumes until you’re blind, drive your own car.
All these thoughts of rules got me to thinking once again about parenting–a full contact, no holds barred, no time outs, no instant replays, no points for whining sport that has a rather extensive but amorphous set of rules. However, for me, I think they can all be boiled down to one simple phrase: Let go.
My buddy, FunkDaddie, once observed that, “You get to that day when you realize that you’re not going to be a star in the NBA, or be an astronaut and go to the moon, or whatever it was that you dreamed about as a kid.” And it’s probably several days after that when you realize that that’s OK, that you’ll still live a fulfilling life, full of adventures and opportunities that you could never imagine as a child.
As a parent, I’ve probably had a realization like that once a day–not counting those early days, when I was too tired to realize anything.
- I thought I was organized. I had to let go of that. Chaos is just the way sometimes.
- I thought I was a little disorganized. I had to let go of that. Without some planning, nothing will happen.
- I thought I was impatient. I had to let go of that. Hurrying a toddler is as effective as pushing the walk button 12 times to get across the street faster–hey, it might work this time, try pushing it again.
- I thought I was laid back. I had to let go of that. Sometimes, things need to be done right now.
- I thought I was smart. I had to let go of that. Most days, I have no idea what I’m doing; I’m just faking it until it seems real.
- I thought I was dumb. I had to let go of that. If a two-year-old, whose brain isn’t even fully formed, can conjugate irregular verbs and use the subjunctive properly, I can probably do a little math.
- I thought I was shy. I had to let go of that. If everyone doesn’t want to talk to me about 3B, he wants to talk to everyone.
- I thought I was social. I had to let go of that. It turns out that the simple processes of dinner, bath, books and bed take up most of the evening and all of my energy–not to mention breakfast, lunch, diaper changes and all the other tasks that suck up weekends.
- I thought I understood nonsense. I had to let go of that. What I thought was nonsense was far too sensible; it wasn’t even silliness.
- I thought I could make sense. I had to let go of that. What I thought was sensible was nonsense.
- I thought it was all new with me, I thought I’d have new insights. I had to let go of that. Mom long ago said that the one lesson she and Dad learned is that they’d eventually eat all their words about parenting.
What Mom taught me was that I’d have to let go.