I read All Joy and No Fun over the weekend (I’m a binge reader). I even stayed up late to watch its author Jennifer Senior on “The Colbert Report” last night. She has a lovely laugh.
The book’s effect on me, at this particular moment in time, is reminding me of what happens to our windshields after my husband applies rain-guard to them. It can rain, hard, and the drops just disperse on the glass. They actually seem to run away, as if they’re sorry to have imposed on your line of vision. The rain’s still there. You still have to drive carefully. But you can see things with greater ease.
It rained, hard, this past weekend. And I was white-knuckling it, acting like everything was cool, driving along like I was in complete control.
The “rain” was just the news of some key information tied to my husband’s next professional assignment: dates and numbers. In writing. A monsoon of certainty, about him. None about “us.” Certainties (and uncertainties) which I embrace, but must also adapt to without getting washed off the road.
I’ve been worrying, a lot, you see, even though our kids are excited to move. I’ve been panicking about elementary school calendars, standardized testing schedules, curricular differences, expected skill mastery… Also, snow boots, state income taxes, heating expenses, winter blues, cabin fever, isolation, Lyme disease, and how to house-train a puppy. All those thoughts raced through my head over the course of two minutes, while washing a few dishes, and that was precisely the moment my husband looked at me and blithely asked, “What’s wrong?”
My personal takeaway from All Joy and No Fun? Being a modern parent is an act of choice, and our children have nothing–literally nothing else, really–to do but follow our lead until they move out. (No pressure!)
So if you have the luxury of time for any amount of self-reflection (if you’re comfortably middle-class), you are likely a continuous self-assessor. And the intense love you feel for your children–the love you feel because you care for them so completely and constantly… that joy, that “grief turned inside out?” You’re acutely vulnerable to loss, and intensely protective of all you have: you are waiting… trying to prepare for… imminent disaster. Always.
And you, modern parent, chose all of this.
But, BUT! All of that doesn’t mean that you have to choose worry over calm, or panic over preparation. It doesn’t mean that when a monsoon comes, you have to drive as fast as you can so that you can put it behind you. You can slow down. Tap the brakes. Appreciate the spectacular–and temporary–beauty of a storm.
You just need a little rain-guard. Thanks for the bottle of it, Ms. Senior.