Last Monday it was raining out, so I decided to drive down to the bus stop and pick up the kids. I sat in my car and surfed the Internet, and I came across a link called, “100 Wise Words for Everyone,” written by an economics teacher for his high school seniors.
I had a few minutes to spare, so I clicked on it.
I expected it to explain concepts about how the world has limited means and resources like clean water and oil and wheat to meet the population’s unlimited demands and it’s called scarcity and that’s why we have a market system.
(This may or may not be an actual economic concept.)
Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to read some funny, precious gems about when to get a haircut, how to jump in a pool, and why you should be patient with those who work in airport security.
Aside from the mandatory class I had to take in graduate school, I never really studied—or understood—economics very well. That stuff’s hard, people. In fact, I’m not even going to tell you what I got in the class because it was my worst grade and it’s kind of embarrassing.
As I drove back up our long driveway with a van full of kids and backpacks, I wondered if I had any words of wisdom of my own.
What does the little voice in my head whisper when I’m panicked or tired or bored or lonely?
What do I try to remember when I feel stress?
What do I hope to teach my kids?
When I walked into the house, I jotted down the first things that came to my mind.
If it doesn’t fit in the store, it’s not going to fit at home.
There are more than two sides to every story: your side, my side, and what really happened.
My mother always told me to never write anything down that I don’t want the whole world to read. I dedicated my second book to her.
I appreciate irony.
The more I teach my kids to do around the house, the less I have to do. This leaves me a lot more time to watch re-runs of Mad Men.
It’s never too late to start the day over.
Someone once told me that chocolate chip cookies don’t turn out as well on a rainy day. This has something to do with the butter but I don’t know what exactly.
It’s okay to be bored.
It’s okay to be tired.
It’s okay to be sad.
One time I was telling our psychologist about a fight Joe and I had. It was when he needed back surgery a couple of years ago, and I was mad because he wouldn’t listen to me about the best way to recover.
She asked me why I was going straight to anger, instead of letting myself experience the obvious feelings of fear and anxiety and worry.
For me, this was a game-changer.
My kids have a game called Marble Run, where they build courses with chutes and ladders and ramps, and then they race marbles down them.
My nine-year old, Charlie, always makes a valley between two ramps, so his marble flies down the first ramp and hopefully has enough speed to make it up the other side. Whenever I watch him do this, I am always reminded of my fight with Joe about back surgery. Like a shiny silver marble, I didn’t want to sit in the middle.
Now, whenever I am tempted to go straight to anger—whether it’s because Jack is obsessing about how much he loves soda and can he get a soda at lunch and soda is so great and how about soda and did I know soda was invented in 1676, or because my kitchen is a mess, or Joe isn’t home when he said he would be—I picture that marble sliding cleanly in the valley, and I try to slow my momentum so I don’t fly up the other side.
Because, really, it’s never about the soda.
It’s never about running late. It’s never about cereal bowls on the counter or Cheerios stuck in the drain in the sink.
It’s about watching my son’s mind caught in autism’s steely grasp, while my stomach prickles with fear.
It’s about how, at the end of a long afternoon of getting five kids through homework and answering trivia questions about soda and sweeping Goldfish crackers off the floor for the thirty zillionth time, I feel restless. I feel antsy. I feel lonely for my husband.
I love a funny joke, a good story, and a compelling book.
Forgiving a person does not give him or her permission to hurt me again.
Don’t stare. Ask. If you ask, I will tell you.
I will tell you why he jumps. I will tell you why he grunts, and shouts, and still sucks on his two middle fingers when he’s agitated even though he’s eleven years old.
I will tell you. In fact, I want to tell you. I want to tell you our story of autism and five kids and the fight and the fatigue and the joy and the fear.
I am a better mother/wife/human if I start my day by working out.
Ladies, always assume you can get pregnant. Gentlemen, always assume she can get pregnant.
Because my husband Joe and I, well, we didn’t make these assumptions. And long story short, his name is Henry.
I don’t fear aging. I fear not aging.
It’s okay to go to bed angry. The words Joe and I exchange when we’re overtired and overwrought are infinitely worse than the discussion we have in the morning.
I think the smallest traditions make for the biggest memories.
We eat our favorite family dinner—chicken parmesan and garlic bread—by candlelight.
We begin meals with a prayer and we tie balloons to the mailbox for birthdays.
When we can, we take the long way home from the elementary school so we can see the horses munching their grass on the farm down the street.
My relationship with my God is my own. It is not for anyone else’s opinion, or judgment, or advice.
I believe there are some lessons that should only come from home; nutrition, sex, finance, and religion are among them.
I live with small children and a puppy, so I never assume it’s chocolate on the floor.
It’s okay to put my marriage’s needs ahead of my children’s needs.
If I want a cupcake, I eat a cupcake.
I never imagined, even once, the amount of joy this silly little puppy would bring to our home.
Dancing always makes me feel better.
It’s true that I don’t really understand the principles of economics very well. I don’t understand scarcity and demand and market place and marginal benefit.
But I do know there is a limited supply to my own life’s relentless demands. There is a shortage of energy and sympathy and patience and awareness. There is a scarcity of sweet, golden, buttery time.
Scarcity requires choice.
I choose to explain the world to Jack and Jack to the world so they may each be a little kinder to one another.
I choose to make brownies instead of chocolate chip cookies when it’s raining out, and I choose pink balloons for my daughter Rose’s birthday and green for Joey’s.
I choose to see God in my own way.
I choose to sit like a slow marble in the midst of panic instead of reaching up the ramp for anger. And if that fails, I reach out and pet our puppy.
Maybe this is what economists mean when they talk about a market system.
(B-. I got a B- in economics.)
(Full disclosure: this wasn’t my worst grade. Statistics was.)
(I may not be smart.)