two years

I started this blog two years ago. And two years later, today, we are in the same house, my husband is in the same job, our kids attend the same school. Everybody is fine, as always.

***

I stayed up too late watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” last night. I adore the movie. There’s tremendous comfort in the idea that each person makes a difference in the lives of those around him, that when you are helpful, people will in turn, help you, without hesitation. That each action begets a distinct reaction.

But there’s a lot of ego in the movie, too, which I guess can be necessary if you’re in a pit of despair and self-loathing, as George was. Consider George, who after learning that had he not been born his brother Harry wouldn’t have lived past the age of 9, demands Clarence take him to Mary, his true love. Mary’s fate was apparently worse than Harry’s, as Clarence says he can’t tell him about her. But he ultimately does:  “She’s an old maid, George.” Worse yet, she has untamed eyebrows.

Yes, yes, I understand that Clarence (and his boss) were trying to show George that he matters. The alternative reality they shared with him was certainly not the only alternative. Was it? (Would nobody else have done anything to attempt to save Harry? Would Mary really have been so un-groomed and lonely?)

We each matter. We each have an impact. But we are each not indispensable.

If not George, who knows, maybe Uncle Billy would have sobered up and done what George did. Maybe Ma Bailey would have taken over the business and hired Mary. Maybe things would have been… dare I say it?

Better.

***

What would the little world I occupy right now have been like if we had moved two years ago?

It would have been fine. Maybe even finer.

Merry Christmas, and here’s to a very (humble and) Happy New Year.

it’s not me

I read the Madeleine Levine column that KJ Dell’Antonia remarks upon in  The Ego in Raising Successful Children. There is, to be sure, a tremendous amount of ego involved in thinking you can affect the success of another, namely your child.

Your ego, after all, takes over when you’re doubtful or nervous. Your ego drives you to seek control of the uncertainty in a situation, and restore your own sense of calm. (Parenting is a lot of things, but mainly, it’s uncertainty.) And when our egos are fragile, it’s not, as Dell’Antonia concludes, the best idea to offer unsolicited advice. It can make a parent question herself.

But sometimes, that’s a good thing.

When I became a parent, I was working full time. My boss was tough. She set incredibly high expectations and sometimes changed elements of those expectations rather suddenly. She was quick to vocalize displeasure, rather sharply, loudly, and redundantly. But, when she was happy, or pleased: life was golden. She was generous, funny, curious about you, and flattering.

Thankfully, for 99 percent of the time I worked for her, she was pleased with me. She allowed me to bring my infant daughter to work with me, for pete’s sake! But that 1 percent? It felt like 100.

My ego took a beating.

She has three grown children–two sons and a daughter. I knew her daughter: she presented herself as self-assured, smart, and warm. Whenever I questioned the mental health impact of continuing to work after our daughter was born, the thought of her daughter calmed me.

I’d remind myself, “My boss really is a good person, she’s reasonable and kind, she raised that wonderful woman, after all.”

But then, at her 60th birthday party, my boss said:

“I’m going to give you young parents some advice,” as two of us were new parents, with children under age two. In fact I had my five-month-old daughter in my arms.

“As you child grows, whatever your child does that may disappoint you, you can’t take blame. But more important: all of the wonderful things your child will become and do, you can’t take credit.”

It’s the best advice I’ve ever received, but certainly not in the manner my boss intended. I resigned three months later.

My ego didn’t need to be bruised anymore. Our kids are better for it.

Of that, I am certain. And for that, I insist on full credit.