Small Stories for a Big World

Lately, I have been spending an unsettling amount of time as a parent wondering whether a choice I made with Sparkle Girl and Doobins was a good idea; whether I should be doing something that I’m not, or whether it’s best to just let something emerge in its own time.

As I ponder, something from my childhood may come to mind. For instance, as a child I read and read and read. In the fifth grade, my teacher—Mrs. Barfield—told me that as long as I paid enough attention in class to learn everything and take the tests, I could sit in the back of the room and read. So that’s what I did. I still think about what a wonderful gift that was.

When I went home at the end of the school day, I kept reading. There was a time when, on Saturdays and during the summer, my mother would sometimes come into my room, take my book out of my hands and kick me out of the house, telling me that she didn’t want to see me again until it was time for supper.

That was fine with me. I could play wiffle ball with the neighborhood kids in one of the vacant lots, or badminton in the Hendersons’ side yard. One day, my dad told me to hop in the car. We rode over to the ball field at the elementary school, where he told me that he had signed me up for baseball and would come pick me up after practice. For the rest of the season I played on the team. I never did come to enjoy it.

I think about that experience now that Doobins is 12. Although he enjoys playing outside, he spends more time at the computer than Garnet or I would like. Periodically, I think about doing something radical, such as signing up Doobins for fencing lessons, and then I remember the summer I played baseball.

Certainly there are times when I do make Doobins do something just because I think it would be good for him. I think it’s important for him to become comfortable with the mechanics of everyday life, so I may tell him that we’re going to the grocery store.

Going into this school year, I did something that I might not have done if I had remembered something else my parents did. I insisted that Sparkle Girl, who is now a sophomore, sign up for a course that I thought would be good for her. I also thought that, once she got into it, she would enjoy it.

She doesn’t enjoy it and, for the moment, it doesn’t seem to be supporting her long-term goals. Pondering that misstep put me in mind of one of many things I appreciated about my parents. Aside from having me play baseball and kicking me out of the house from time to time, they made sure that my siblings and I took responsibility for making our own choices. They would talk through the pros and cons with us and then leave it up to us to decide. One year, when I couldn’t decide which school to attend, I kept wishing that they would just tell me which one to choose.

They didn’t, and, over the years, I have come to see that having us learn to make such choices was another gift. So, I resolved to be better about letting Sparkle Girl make her own choices in the future.

Often, I would like to have more clarity about the right thing to do in the moment. When I remember to stop and take in what wonderful people Doobins and Sparkle Girl are, and that they know they are loved, I see that everything is coming along just fine.     

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