This last entry under “lessons learned” covers a topic that extends well beyond parenthood. But like many things in my life, it took parenthood to teach me the lesson. So here goes …
It was one of “those days”: On top of the usual routine of work/chauffeur/cook/etc., this one included volunteering at the kids’ elementary school, grocery shopping, and—why not—a trip to the vet. Not to mention needing to get it all done in a few hours to be home in time for a conference call. Which meant that—of course—the SUV in front of me was trying to set a new slow-speed record, and the (I’m sure very nice) fellow shopper insisted on walking with her cart directly in the center of the aisle, and was apparently very concerned with getting exactly the right brand of toothpaste. Which involved careful study of the 50 brands on the side of the aisle she was blocking.
Being the wise, gentle, calm Bay Area dude I am, I wanted to ram her cart, ram the SUV, and probably holler at a few puppies for good measure. Because, you know, MY DAY SUCKED.
And these, dear readers, are my white middle-class lady problems.
A few years ago, my friend Pete told this story: He was a trainer at a large credit card bank on the East Coast, and he was training a bunch of 20-somethings in, you know, credit card bank stuff. The training was not going well. Pete’s stress level, heart rate, and voice were rising, and then he thought:
You know, this is annoying, but at least I am not suffering in war-torn Bosnia. And I’ll bet that right now there is no one in war-torn Bosnia who’s thinking:
You know, this is annoying, but at least I don’t have to teach credit basics to a bunch of 20-year-olds.
That, my friends, is called perspective. It also explains why I love Pete so much.
In any case: So I’m in my car, and the SUV speeds up at the last minute to make the last tenth-second of the yellow light, which means I get stuck at the red. And I can already see that the train crossing is coming down that’s going to block me. And—of course—it’s one of those two-mile long freight trains, not the speedy Amtrak—and …
Wow. If these are my problems, my life is pretty good. I’m in the car I own, having just left the awesome school where my kids—who are also awesome—attend. And I just left a grocery store where they have 50 kinds of toothpaste because that’s the world I am fortunate enough to live in. And when—very long train aside—I get home, it will be to the house I own, from which I am able to work and support myself and my family. And oh by the way, Oakland and the Bay Area are really pretty and have great weather.
Given this as the backdrop, my “problems” are, as I now like to call them, white middle-class lady problems. Which, hey—no knock on white people, or middle-class people, or ladies—I’m in most of those groups. (There’s a term that’s since come up to describe the same phenomenon: “first world problems.” But I think mine is funnier.) And problems are problems—or, at least, annoying. That’s real, and there’s no sense trying to deny or it. But perspective helps. And when my brain is actually working in perspective, we have it pretty good.
Next: The Village: Coaches, Mentors, and Other Parental Stand-Ins