There have been moments in my life where the stars aligned, the stage was set, someone entered my life/dorm room/kitchen/office and said EXACTLY what I needed to hear.
It may have been advice, an observation, or a much-needed kick in the pants. But these moments stand out to me as game changers – and the players often don’t even know that they helped create a turning point in my life.
I was an angry teen. You know the type: easily inflamed, furious at the injustice of the world, ready to debate at the drop of a hat regardless of subject or personal knowledge.
I must have been exhausting to parent.
I projected my anger on my mother, mostly. As an older teen, I found the words to tell her how I angry I was. I blamed her for “screwing me up” and “making me bitter.” I enumerated the various (and many) ways she had ruined my life. Again and again. (Lovely, right?)
At one point, exasperated, she delivered this wisdom nugget:
“I’m in charge of screwing you up.
You are in charge of fixing it.”
I know it sounds harsh. But remember that I pushed her to the edge over and over again before she delivered that hard truth.
We fight against it, we try to minimize the damage, and we pray that their mistakes will be their own. But at the end of the day, even if only in some small way, we screw up our kids.
I keep my mom’s wisdom with me, not only because it shocked me out of my own self-pity, but also because it’s a great reminder now that I’m a mom. My kids are going to have to repair some damage that I inflict. Maybe it will be a less-than-perfect body image or a quick temper. I hope it’s something more benign like a love of the teeny-bopper angst genre.
But whatever it is, I can arm them to heal themselves. I can teach them skills to re-teach and re-parent themselves when the time comes – skills like talking about feelings, asking for help, and perseverance.
My goal isn’t to raise perfect kids; it’s not possible and perfect is boring. My goal is to raise kids that know how to be happy and know what to do when they aren’t.
I have mentioned before that I work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Seriously. These people are rock star geniuses and I get to hang out with them every day.
I started this job when Pumpkin was just 3 months old. I was exhausted and new and I didn’t know much about the organization. One person really made an effort to show me the ropes and made sure I was set up to succeed.
This co-worker gave me some great advice recently. I was struggling with the age-old question of “what I want to be when I grow up.” That’s when this mentor took me aside and said,
“Make sure that your ladder is propped against the right wall so that when you get to the top of it, you like the view.”
In other words, don’t just grab an opportunity because it’s the next great thing. I started to think of my career as a house – while I’m building it, I need to make sure it’s a place I want to be when I’m done.
I know that this person was just talking about work. But these words have meant so much more to me. What is my life ladder climbing toward? Or my marriage ladder? Or my family ladder?
I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. But I do know what I love: my husband, my kids, my job, writing, and being of service to others. By some unbelievable stroke of luck, I get to do it all.
Pumpkin came to our family through adoption. Even though she has been with us since she was a few days old, the adoption process took a ridiculously long time. We spent over a year fearing that we could lose her. Every court appearance, ever social worker visit, ever meeting with lawyers and court-appointed advocates and judges was a vivid reminder that we were a phone call away from our daughter being taken from us. And there was nothing we could do to stop it.
The fear and anxiety was crippling. I struggled to focus. I cried a lot. I thought of the loss of a baby we experienced only a year before.
One day, I called a trusted friend crying and told her I couldn’t live with the burden of the fear. I wept on the phone when she told me I was brave.
I didn’t feel brave. I felt unraveled; paralyzed with the fear of losing my daughter. And that’s when she said,
“Courage is just fear that has said its prayers.”
I know these aren’t her words – according to this website, they can be attributed to Dorothy Bernard. But when I heard my friend say those words to me, they struck a chord that echoed deep, deep inside of me.
I didn’t have to brave.
I can’t tell you that I was able to turn the whole thing over to the universe. I can’t tell you that I would have been okay no matter what happened. But I did realize that each day I spent walking through the fear was a day closer to the end of it.
I can’t tell you how many times I held a newborn, or crawling, or toddling Pumpkin and thought, “The fear is too much. I can’t take it anymore. When will this be over?” Each time, I would hear my friend’s words in my head and remind myself that I just had to make it through THIS day.
Days became weeks and weeks became months. And after over a year of waiting, the adoption was finalized this February.
When was the last time someone dropped a wisdom nugget on you?