Screw Sisyphus. What’s the best way to push a boulder up a mountain?
More than one way to skin a cat
I’m in a mixing metaphors mood, a never-say-die frame of mind. Sweetly satisfied and smiling, though the hours ahead are not without significant challenges. (As have been the hours preceding these words on the virtual page. Yes, the technology trauma continues.)
The ups and downs of daily life have been tossing this little household about. Our roller coaster life. The bad days have been many, and the good ones – too few. But this promises to be a happy day, whatever may be swirling about. A day of good news. Mountains can be moved. What weighs us down – at least for a time – set aside.
So how do you accomplish an impossible task? Especially when you’re on the mat?
Sometimes, it’s a matter of the good fight. Or a little help from your friends. Often, you need to step back, imagine, and picture something very different. Visualize an alternative future, which allows you to discover new options and strategies. When you imagine doors opening, sometimes they do.
And let’s not forget the indefatigable juice that courses through your veins when you become a parent. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your kids? Most of us would move mountains – and do.
Never underestimate your power as a parent – to influence through your words or your actions. Even when you’re dealing with adolescents. Even when you’re fumbling your way through, as most of us do, with no clear cut solutions.
This past week, my (often absent-minded) teenager has tried my patience repeatedly. Among other things, a few nights ago he realized he’d left his art supplies at school, with a project due in the morning. (Cue violins, then slamming of doors, and frustrated expletives hurled throughout the house.)
The chase, the “get”
It was 7:48 p.m. The art supply store closes at 8:00 p.m. If we arrived in time, he’d have to replace his expensive Prisma Color pencils with his own (meager) savings.
Grab your stuff, I said. We’re making a run for the store, but you’re paying.
“Mom,” he said, “I don’t want to buy new pencils, and we’ll never make it in time.”
NOW. We’re going to try. I’m driving. And you’re paying.
We arrived at 7:57, just as they were beginning locking up. My son bought his pencils with the last of his money and we headed home.
I said: Life lesson. If something is important to you, and there’s a shot in hell, you go for it.
Daring to reach for the stars
Driving home, I could see the relief on his face. I knew it pained him that he now has no money at all. But there was also calm. And the knowledge that he wouldn’t disappoint his art teacher, whose support has meant the world to him these past three years.
My son is a gifted artist, and a budding musician. He hasn’t exhibited the ambition that his older brother did from an early age; rather, he has always been content in his world of creating. Only in the past year or two has he poured it on, setting and achieving new goals for himself. One of those goals has been getting into a good summer program in architecture.
On his return from a few days in Florida, he looked more closely at the second program and said “this is perfect.” It is a respected program, at a highly competitive university. Summer study (like the school itself) offers everything he could possibly want to pursue. Yet he was hesitant to apply.
“I’ll never get in,” he said. His mountain? Self-confidence.
I nagged. I nudged. I coaxed. Finally, I stood over him, and insisted.
You never know unless you try, I said.
He wrote his essay, filled out his application, talked to his counselor and art teacher, and I did the legwork chasing everything down, and sending off the package with his essay, his resume, his transcript, his SAT scores, his two recommendations. Last week.
Timing is everything: Critical wins
This little family needed a win. There’s no doubt of that. The computer dramas of the past week are just the latest in a long series of events that foster collective shaking of heads, and murmuring of “Wow, that’s really bad luck.”
Two weeks ago we got word that my son was accepted into the first program. He was thrilled. We only have a short period before we “accept” their acceptance, and have to send a deposit. And it’s a small fortune.
This morning, I called the office of the second program, to be certain they’d received the packet mailed last week. I was told they’d check and get back to me. I was walking to the post office when the call came.
I stopped dead in my tracks, in the middle of the road.
Excuse me? I said.
“So many things are checked. Art, architecture, music. He’s in, but what does he want to study?“
I took a breath. Apparently the kid is good enough to be “in” and have his pick.
He wants architecture, I said. But he’s also a musician. If he could take some additional course in music, that would be great.
“I’ll put him down for architecture then,” she said. “And we can probably figure out a way for him to do something with music while he’s here.”
I thanked her, got off my phone, and screamed. Then I screamed again. “Middle-aged mini-mom jumps and screams in quiet suburban neighborhood.” Hardly worthy of News at 11, but a joyful moment, expressed as it came naturally.
You bet, I answered.
“I love you, Mom,” he said. And then I swear – I could hear the kid running down the halls to the art room to tell his teacher the news.
He needed a win. He got two. I needed him to get a win, moving himself out of his own way. Allowing him to see that reaching for the stars means a chance of getting them. And he just did.
He earned this win. Now, together, we have to figure out how to pay for it. And we will. This is success, my way. Old-fashioned lessons in perseverance and hard work. In taking the losses and picking yourself back up. Moving a mountain or two by walking around, going through, or imagining that there is no mountain at all.