Monday, January 3, 2011
Directions, a Map and a Compass
When we first began our parenting journey, we knew the destination we had in mind. We hoped to finish with healthy, happy adults, reaching their potential. We were offered a complex set of directions, a map and a compass, all from different sources.
At first the directions were reassuring. We knew this would be a long journey, and it was one we had never made before. The directions were quite detailed, and designed to make sure that we were always in full control of the vehicle. They promised no unnecessary delays--in fact, they were all about arriving as fast as possible: some of the steps promised that even infants would demonstrate adult-abilities (or beyond) of self-soothing, delaying gratification and many other life-skills. They also assured us of a quiet, convenient passenger. However, to reach our destination on time, we were required to drive a predetermined number of miles every day, regardless of the conditions of the road, the weather, the vehicle, our passenger, our bladders or anything else.
A couple of things made us question the directions. For one, they said that we must get gasoline only at certain times. What if our tank had a different capacity? Surely, if the low fuel light came on, we should pay attention, right? No, the directions were adamant. The car was trying to manipulate us. We must drive on, regardless of the fuel level. Well, that sounded pretty illogical. Another one of the directions, heavily underlined, was that we must never allow our companions to share driving time, even though they were they reason for the entire journey, and actually had licenses and credentials beyond ours. The directions even went as far as to hint that they might maliciously drive us in the opposite direction. That seemed a little unlikely, especially given what we knew of our companions and their goals, but the directions had it marked in red. They must remain firmly strapped in the backseat. Finally, we were never to stop or take any detours, again regardless of road conditions or even our own inclinations. As we read on, it didn't sound like a very fun trip, or even a safe one.
We were also offered a map and a compass. The directions weren't as specific. In fact, there were a few different routes highlighted. We were told that the best trip would involve shared driving time, to stop and refuel anytime we needed, to enjoy the attractions and rest areas of all the places we passed through. A few broken bridges were pointed out, and some delightful roadside attractions were marked. We were told to take our time, listen to our fellow passengers and properly maintain our vehicle. It promised that we would enjoy the trip. We were also given a heart-shaped compass. If at anytime the road was rough, or deviated, as long as we maintained a general course in the right direction, we would arrive at the right place.
The second option sounded like a much better fit for us, so we chose that. We haven't finished yet, but we are enjoying the journey. We have frequent stops for snacks and refueling. We visit all the cool attractions. We are careful to maintain our vehicle, and anytime the ride gets a little rough, we make sure that all the connections are in good repair. We share driving time, and try to agree on the route. If we don't agree, we double-check the compass to make sure we are going the right way. That was pretty hard for me at first. I wanted to hog all the driving time. I thought I could do it better and had more experience. Turns out, though, that if I just relax and allow my companions to drive, they steer it better than I do sometimes. I am still adjusting to their speeds. Some times I want to yell at them to go faster, and other times I want to screech to slow down. If I watch the signs though, they have always driven exactly at the speed limit. How do they know to do that? It is kind of funny, because even though we aren't driving the same rigid number of miles as the directions outlined, we are making good time and don't feel like we are behind. Maybe because this road is smoother?
Oh, and a funny thing. We talked to some people who have traveled this before, and found out that the ones who had made it to our destination hadn't fully followed the directions. If they started out with it, they wound up changing a little on the way. Someone said that the directions were mislabeled--that instead of going to our destination they were actually instructions for a race that involved going in circles on the same little track. I am not sure, but it would explain the emphasis on speed, the unwelcoming attitude toward passengers, lack of interest in roadside attractions and so on. However, I would still think they might need more than the prearranged schedule of pit stops.
Anyway, I am happy about where we are on the trip. I am pretty sure we are headed in the right direction, because I see markers for it pretty regularly. I have learned a lot on this journey, especially from the shared driving time. I have learned to have fun and not try to race through the trip. Most of all, I have learned to trust my compass and my companions. And it has been a great ride!