For a brief time during my youth, my mother went to AA and she dragged me along to her meetings. I never understood the purpose of the meetings, didn't know that she was trying to stay sober. I just hated the smell of burned coffee and cigarettes and wondered why my mom kept going to this bleak place to hang out with a group of men. I don't have many memories from that period of our lives but I do have a vivid memory of opening the big blue book she carried to and from meetings and finding the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change Courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
I heard my mother recite it a couple of times which surprised me because she wasn't one to pray. Sure, she'd say, "Mother Mary bless us sinners in our time of need!" but she usually said that with a cigarette between her teeth and a Budweiser in one hand as she spread her cards out on the table and then yelled "Gin!" We weren't very religious but I was fairly certain that her Mother Mary utterances didn't actually count as prayer.
Lately, I've been thinking about wisdom in regard to parenting and the serenity prayer came back to me. I pondered it - giving weight to the words and turning them in my mind like worry stones - and then I remembered something rather important. My children are people. They came into this world with certain characteristics and personality traits. I can wish that they were less competitive, less strong-willed, less of many things. I can use every tool in my bag - the good and the bad - to try to change those essential parts of who they are but it won't work. I can do my best to civilize them but I cannot change them and I shouldn't. My children are people - they are their own people. I'm still learning. It would be so much easier if I could turn them over and find instructions on their bottoms or a diagram with labelled points and clarity. So far? Nothing. So, it's time for me to accept that there are things that I cannot change and do my best as their guide in this world. Basically, in the immortal words of The Gambler, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em". I think I'll hold the kids but there are a few hands that need to fold.