Having a child is like getting a bookshelf from Ikea. You see it and you think it will change your life, or at least look great in your living room, so you buy it and you think it will be completely manageable to put together yourself. So, you throw the box over your shoulder and take it home. You sit in the middle of the floor with your partner and open the box and the wood looks shiny and smells like lingonberries and you imagine all the possibilities. You can see how the books will look on the shelves and how it will gleam in the soft glow of a reading lamp and you can't help yourself - you are downright giddy! How hard can it be to put together a simple shelf? Right? You toss the instructions aside because instructions are for lesser mortals. You sort out the weird little bolts and take your twirly tool and start putting the shelf together but nothing seems to fit together the way you thought it would and, before you know it, you are cursing and your partner is wrestling the twirly tool out of your hand, convinced that she can do it better. You start to hate Ikea just a tiny bit because they make putting shelves together seem so effortless. Then, your partner starts in on the shelf and there is much twisting and squeaking and a little bit of swearing but she thinks she's got it all figured out but, when she sits back to inspect her work, you both realize that the bookshelf is now a coffee table. You don't say a word, because you are more Pretty Princess than Evil Queen, and you go get a bottle of wine instead. As you drink, you sit there pondering the bookshelf and start to think that there is no way to put the thing together with the tools provided. Clearly, you need a 1/2" drill and maybe a sledgehammer. But, before you make it to the basement to get the tools, the two of you end up getting sauced on the living room floor and then someone spills a glass of wine which stains your beautiful rug that was going to be the perfect compliment to the bookshelf but you don't care anymore and you pass out in the puddle of wine...together...in fetal positions. While you lie there, the bookshelf mocks you. Eventually you wake up with a horrible hangover but you know that you can't give up on the bookshelf. So, you make a giant pot of coffee and find the discarded instruction manual because you have been humbled and you take the whole damn thing apart and turn to the manual only to find that all of the instructions are in Swedish. Through perseverance and blind luck, you finally manage to put it together and it actually looks like a shelf. It's not the shelf you imagined, though. It looks completely different than it did at the store and some of the bolts are stripped and there is a little scratch on one side. Still, you and your partner are jubilant because you stuck it out and now you have this amazing bookshelf. You put it in the corner and you put all of your prized books on it and life is good. Then, one day, Chuck Schmuck wanders into your house and says, "What's up with that ugly book case?" You don't know whether to weep or to kick his ass and it hits you - Mr. Schmuck doesn't get it because he doesn't know about the process. Sometimes, things are harder than they seem. Sometimes, you do your best but make mistakes. Sometimes, you end up with something completely different than you imagined and are able to find the beauty in that. I know that I have rambled quite a bit here so I am going to provide a handy dandy guide to this post using pictures. Ready?
You start out hoping for this:
But , much to your surprise, you end up with this:
And this is the key to figuring all of this out:
Are you even still reading at this point? Well, if you are, my point is that there is so much that is beyond our control as parents. I am going to borrow a quote from Anne Lamott:
The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.
I have this quote pinned to the wall in my cube at work and look at it every day. It reminds me to stop and focus on the moment right in front of me. It reminds me that I cannot control what happens in the future. My kids may become scientists who discover the cure for cancer or they may sit on the couch all day playing video games and shouting, "Mom! Run to the store for more Coke and Ho Ho's!" when they are THIRTY YEARS OLD. There is no way to know how it will all turn out. We simply have to trust that we'll make it through the journey an inch at a time. In time, everything will be revealed. This is the closest thing I have to faith.