One Christmas when I was maybe about 8 years old I was given as a gift a nice little box with a bunch of beads. I’d never done much with beads but I liked the idea, and many of the beads I got were very pretty. I spent a lot of time putting the beads into the separated compartments of the box, planning what to make with them, sorting them by how much I liked them and how they might go together. I had all these ideas but I didn’t want to use up the beads that I had; if I used them for one project then I wouldn’t have them anymore for the next project, and I only had very limited numbers of the beads I loved the most.
I never used those beads. When I moved out they were still carefully sorted into the compartments of that box, stored in a cubby in my closet.
I still do the same thing. I still wait until every single duck is in a row, every possibility accounted for, every decision weighed and plotted – but of course few things in life can be mapped out so perfectly without deviation or uncertainty. I still wait for that next batch of spare beads that I never get.
And I’m not talking about things necessarily, either. Kate’s room is still only about 80% done because I couldn’t find the right wallpaper border – instead of a less perfect border there is a messy overlap of colors where a border ought to be. The frames I bought for my bedroom are still empty and unhung because I couldn’t decide which photos to put in them. I get lost in an ever-degrading spiral of options, I get overwhelmed, and then I walk away.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time in my life I waste being weighted down with what really comes down to inconsequential details. Will it ever really matter if I get Kate the ladybugs sheets or the nature sheets? Unlikely. Maybe in some small fashion. But I just spent several hours of my life – hours of my time that I really don’t have to spend – researching every possible option. Part of it, okay, I do like decorating so it starts out being fun. But it always ends with me being frustrated and overwhelmed and ready to abandon the entire project.
Adolescence is a generally a time of making stupid decisions and taking risks. I, unlike pretty much any of my peers, was the one hanging back saying, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, someone’s going to get in trouble, this will inconvenience someone somewhere.” Which sounds really great in theory – how refreshing, a considerate, self-aware teenager! How wonderful! But there are lessons to be learned in adolescence, lessons about screwing up and getting back on your feet, about failure, about taking risks. Lessons that I never learned. I got through by always doing well, always getting the grades, always doing the right thing. I got through by being absolutely terrified of doing something wrong. That fear has never really left me.
Kate is a lot like me in many ways. She is sensitive and cautious and thoughtful. All wonderful things, I love her personality. And I have to admit, having a kid who is cautious and listens to you feels like a great thing with a 2 year old. But I see in her all the tendencies that I have… the fear to upset people, the fear to do something wrong. I am trying to help her figure it out, setting her on her feet and telling her she’s okay… trying to tell her that she can fall and get back up again. But I worry. How do I teach something when I haven’t really learned it myself?