Saturday, January 28, 2012

Random Rambling: Twelve steps.


Here's how I thought it would all work:

  1. You fall in love (while you are still rather young-ish), get married, and love each other forever.
  2. You (effortlessly) conceive and have a baby.
  3. You (perfectly) love and parent the baby.
  4. You (unfailingly) read to the baby.
  5. The baby grows into a (wonderful) child.
  6. The child goes to (the best) school.
  7. The child is gifted (of course).
  8. The child excels at nearly everything he or she tries.
  9. The child gets into (all of) the colleges of his or her choice and/or gets all of the opportunities of his or her choice. You and your perfect spouse are still there to enjoy it.
  10. The child graduates (on time) from the college of his or her choice (plus or minus an advanced or terminal degree of his or her choice.)You and super-spouse are over the moon.
  11. The child (immediately) becomes a gainfully and irrevocably employed grown-up in the field of his or her choice. You and super-spouse have bought a vacation house over the moon.
  12. The gainfully employed grown-up child subsequently meets someone and falls in love. You and super-spouse prepare to be super-grandparents.* 
*(Because that child has now returned to step one.)

Here is what I am learning:

It doesn't usually work that way.

I am reflecting right now on these twelve imaginary steps. Twelve steps that don't ever seem to fall into this perfect little order that we imagine. Nope, not at all.

When I look at this list--one through twelve--I realize that virtually no person sails through this list without a hitch. No, not one. I'm also recognizing that depending upon where we are in our lives, we worry about different parts of this list.

Or. We mature enough to scrap it altogether and enjoy the lives we have and to find what is perfect in them.


When I first moved to Atlanta, man. . .  all I ever thought about was step one. Worried about it. Prayed about it. Talked about it. Fretted about it. Well, actually. . . . I worried mostly about the step before step one--meeting someone.

Eventually I met Harry so I was on to worrying about other things. Just like my friends were.

Anyways. Today I'm looking at my own little world and thinking about the hiccups I've had on that twelve step list. And let me be clear--as far as my life goes, these are not major hiccups. They are things that, in the grand scheme of things, aren't earth shattering really . . . . .but matter. At least to me.

Like, for example. My son, Isaiah, talked non-stop from the day he turned one. His memory is like a steel trap and his soul could rival that of any Grady elder. He is wonderful and insightful and smart and everything else you can think of. So naturally I figured he'd take all of this wonderful and insightful and smartful into the classroom when he started school. But you know? School has not been a cake walk for him. It hasn't been horrible. But it hasn't been a cakewalk either. And that? That caught me off guard. Damn, it did.

It was supposed to be so simple. He'd show up and simply blow their minds--just as he'd blown ours. But you know? School and kids and learning can be complicated. More complicated than I had given it credit for. And no, my child is not doing horribly in school or anything like that. But it isn't what I expected. It isn't what I recall from my days as a student in elementary school. No, it is not. Oh yeah. And he also isn't me.

See? That's what's stressful about that list. It's all about expectations and how you think things are supposed to go. You get all bent out of shape when it takes a turn somewhere in Albuquerque. At least I did.

That's why you need people who care around you.

This year Isaiah has a teacher who, instead of focusing on whether or not he is gifted, has chosen to focus on the fact that he is a gift. And not just him. Every child in that class. And it is amazing. Really, really amazing. She has helped me to stop and remember that my child is a gift. And I thought I was someone who would never need to be reminded of that. But school is different. She, through her caring, has helped me to remember:

Forget whether or not he is gifted. He's a gift, remember?

It kind of reminds me of when I struggled to breast feed Isaiah right after he was born. Oh, how much I cried and cried when it wasn't working! It finally took our pediatrician to remind me that I needed to stop trying to follow some perfect to-do list and just enjoy my baby.

Oh yeah. My baby. Enjoy him.

But anyways. I guess Isaiah's wonderful teacher has helped me to do the same thing. Enjoy my baby. And see the things that those twelve steps make me forget sometimes. And all this caring is happening in a public school, no less. Yes! Man, I could go on and on about her. . . . but I won't because it might lead to the ugly cry. Or worse her reading this and having the ugly cry.


You know what else? The point of maximal fretting on that twelve step list of expectations totally depends upon where you are in your life. It really does.

Like. . . . I have several friends with relationships that are unraveling. Some quietly unraveling like one loose piece of yarn in a crocheted afghan that gets tugged on softly until nothing remains but a large pile. Others unraveling suddenly. . .so suddenly that everyone around them is dizzy from it.

See? Failed again by that list of steps and weeping into the crook of an arm because it didn't happen as planned. As we planned.

But does life ever really happen exactly as we planned? Does it?

Someone wants to fall in love. Someone is in love but wants to be married. Someone is married but is in a different city than their spouse. Someone wants their child to go to college. Someone wants their kids to graduate from college. Someone is upset that their college graduate child isn't gainfully employed. Someone wants their gainfully employed married college graduate child to have a baby already.


It never stops. Someone wants to have a baby and can't. Or they did have a baby and that baby has health problems. Or they had a perfectly healthy baby but really want another baby. Or they finally got all their babies but now their marriage is unraveling. Or something else altogether.

But always something. Something to groan about. Some step on that pesky list to get you all hung up.

And I'm not saying that this list of expectations is all-inclusive. I'm also not saying that college is on everyone's radar or that every person reading this actually gives a hoot about every single one of these steps. But I am saying that somehow some version of this list has become the circle of life for a whole lot of people.

Even the really, really blessed ones like me.

So today, I say we all just scrap that list altogether. I say we wake up and give our best. That we strive for great futures for ourselves and our children but all the while. . . we stop and smell as many roses as we can along the way. And surround ourselves with people who care.

Because all of it is really a gift. . . .a perfect gift.

Oh yeah. My baby. Enjoy him.

Oh yeah. My life. Enjoy it.

Got it.

Happy Saturday.


  1. If I could only tell you how terribly on time this post is for me at this.very.point. In my life. One of my mantras , is " love what you got ". Thanks for reminding me to check myself, and remember to enjoy the now.

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  2. What an awesome little gift you have!! I'm so SO future focused that I have to remind myself more often than I'd like to revel in the joy of the present. I've been doing much better this year but I know I'm a work in progress. Know what I'm grateful for right now? That my BFF is one of those gift-reminding teachers! I love her for that every time I think about it!

  3. Each child comes with his or her own set of gifts. They don't always fall into the "gifted" categories we are taught to believe in. Teachers who recognize this are superheroes.
    Beautiful post and thanks for the reminders. Not just about our babies, but...everything.

  4. Reminds me of the quote by Ivy Baker - "The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning." Thank you for the reminder!

  5. Beautiful and inspiring. And children and the grandchildren are a blessing. It's nice you have someone there to remind you and Isaiah that he is a gift. It's important that he knows that. Sometimes it's the kids who don't come home with the bumper stickers and Student of the Month badges that make their way just fine in life. But the friends whose marriages are unraveling, it's not really about not sticking to the plan. Rejection can be the most painful thing in the world. I was once asked by a friend if I had to go through divorce again or breast cancer, I didn't even have to think about it. I would go through breast cancer again hands down.

  6. This is the most perfect post ever. Oh how I relate. You just summed up the whole entire story. The WHOLE story. Thank you especially for the moral of the story. You are a gift. You.

  7. Maria -- I'm glad this was the word you needed. And on a Sunday, no less. Thanks for always reading, sister.

    Jameil -- I love your goal-setting. I think you are grounded and driven, so keep the lists going. But also keep that BFF of yours.

    Sister Moon -- You'd love his teacher. She is a superhero. A real life superhero, for real.

    Jucie -- I love this quote! Had never heard it before. Thank you so much for giving it to me today. That's a good word!

    Princess Lea-Mama -- Thanks for you.

    Emmy -- Damn. That's real talk right there. I always gain perspective from your comments. Thanks for reading and thinking. You = The truth.

    Angella -- As are you. By the way, I am in love with that cool story you shared today. Thanks for that. On my way to your blog to comment on it. So inspiring!

  8. It took me a while to realize that it is OK when life deviates from the path you imagined. I feel so free and happy now that I have realized that. Thank you for putting it into words. Love the pictures of Isaiah!

  9. Thanks. I follow your blog because I used to be a Grady doc and you always make me wistful for the experience. But this amazing piece was missed. Luckily, I have a friend who thought to send it to me - "just in case." That's why life is so great! Thanks again.

  10. I have read this blog for years and haven't felt moved to leave a comment until this post. Thanks for writing this today, I really needed to hear it!


  11. thanks for always putting everything in perspective Dr. M.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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