The Things We Do


I heard Zeca crying in her room. I went in to find her lying in bed, covers pulled up to her chin, tears on her cheeks. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she'd messed up her Rubik's Cube. She'd gotten it for her birthday and had been carefully twisting and rotating it for a week, figuring out how it worked. She had told me she wanted to understand it. But that night, she had made a wrong turn and couldn't get it back the way it was. I got a Rubik's Cube for Christmas when I was in high school and turned it every which way and was never able to solve it. So, I told her that, told her that I had messed mine up and survived. I told her that thousands of people probably have messed up Rubik's Cubes lying around their houses. This was no consolation to her and she cried herself to sleep.

Later that night, before going to bed myself, I went into her room to tuck her in one last time and I looked at her sweet face and then looked at her Rubik's Cube and thought, "I can fix this."

There are so many things we can't fix. We can't take away loneliness and we can't erase a bad test score. We can't keep them from disappointment or pain, can't always make things easy for them. I know all this and struggle to make peace with varying results.

But a messed up Rubik's Cube? Surely, I could fix that.

So, I took it from her desk and settled into bed. I googled "How to solve a Rubik's Cube," found an instruction sheet and went to work. Even with instructions, I was having a difficult time and stopped for the night after about an hour - I had only completed the first step.

For the next several nights, I stayed up way too late, peering at the instructions on my phone and working on that damn cube. I got it to the final step - solving it was only a few twists away - and I did something wrong and wrecked all that I had done and had to start over.

Each morning, Zeca looked at me hopefully and asked, "Did you solve it?" and each morning I said the same thing, "No, baby. But I'm going to fix this."

Last Wednesday, I sat with the instructions and the cube during the kids' martial arts class and found myself mumbling to myself, "Red edge blue center to the outside" and wondering how to make that magical move happen. I'd stayed up way too late for way too many nights and I realized that it might take me weeks to figure it out because my mind just doesn't work that way.

Miguel came over and sat down and said, "There is a kid in my class that can solve a Rubik's Cube in under a minute. Let me take Zeca's cube to him and let him do it."

I wanted to solve it. I wanted to fix this one thing. And then I realized that I still could by handing it over to someone else.

So, the next day, Miguel took Zeca's cube to school and his classmate solved it in under a minute as promised. He came out of school with the perfect cube in his hand and gave it to Zeca who lit up.

As a parent, I can't fix everything and maybe I'm finally learning to accept help fixing the things I can.