Drop The Ball
Recently my son came home from school talking about a party his small advisory group had had yesterday at school, in which they were supposed to bring in a treat from home. His treat offering? A few Tic-Tacs from his backpack. He forgot to tell me about the party, so I get the reputation of having dropped the ball. For a few seconds, I felt bad, wondering, “What will others think?” But then, since I’m recovering from a nasty flu in spite of a flu shot last fall, I let it go. What a great feeling.
When I was growing up, there weren’t all of these gathering at school in which parents have to feel constantly on the ball. At my kids’ previous school, second grade is the year that there is a class gathering with food prepared by parents almost every month. And not just any kind of food; it’s themed to what they are learning. My favorite was West African Cassava Cakes, which tasted horrible, and didn’t even look appealing, but that the teacher insisted we make. There was always the mom who managed to make her ethnic treats look and taste great, but I wasn’t one of them. There were also often themed days, in which kids had to dress up as a famous person on Monday, wear the school colors on Tuesday, don elegant clothes on Wednesday, and throw on pajamas on Thursday. My fear was what if I got the days wrong and my child came dressed at Abraham Lincoln while every one else was in pajamas?
It’s all a little bit too much.
I also just got a note from my son’s director, thanking the parents for sending snacks with their kids for the long rehearsals they have had. Um, I’m haven’t sent in any snacks. It never occurred to me. And to think I was so proud of dealing with scheduling the hand surgeon for my daughter with her broken finger and sending the check for the France trip. But then I had this realization: whatever you do will never be enough. Not for you or for anyone. There’s always more that you could be doing.
This is why people look so exhausted all the time. They are wacking away at all the balls, keeping them in the air. And they are taking on concerns that aren’t theirs, like whether school robotics club will happen this year, and whether their friends’ marriage is breaking up, or whether a neighbors’ house should be condemned because it’s in such bad disrepair. I used to do that, until I got a painful eye condition. Part of healing for me involves letting balls drop and not taking stuff on that I don’t need to take on. I no longer respond to emails within the hour, as though I had a gun pressed to head. I no longer need to solve everyone’s marriage and financial issues. It’s not easy to change, but I’m doing it. Today I walked by the dilapidated house on my walk home and didn’t take it on.
This applies to major issues in the world too. I can’t solve global poverty and the plight of the polar bears, and the transgender fight, and all the racism and violence in our world. But, I can be kind. I can raise my kids to treat others fairly and be open minded, I can vote and march and write. I can focus on a being that person who is bringing good energy to the world, not complaining about the weather and housing prices and whether men listen– all things I can’t control.
The reality is, we can control so little. Starting with a calm mind is a great start, since we can’t offer peace if we don’t have it.
As you think about the work you want to bring to the world stage, think about all the balls you are juggling and how many of them you can let go of. If you look carefully, you’ll realize that you don’t have to do everything asked of you. Yes, bringing African-themed cookies is essential for your second grader– and we thankfully got all those years of gatherings right. But once they are in sixth grade and the teacher doesn’t bother to tell you, let alone your son, a few Tic-Tacs is good enough. One fewer ball to carry. Figure out your should’s and let go of those. The world needs you to be lighter so that you don’t bring more burdens, but instead your humor, your joy and your gifts.