Dear J-

When I was younger I used to make up various benchmarking feats to prove I could do something else, usually phrased as “If I can … then I can …” For instance, “If I can leap this sidewalk chasm in one bound, then I can go visit the Grand Canyon someday.” “If I can handle that team at debate, then I can ask her out next weekend.” Last weekend I thought up another one: if I can take the kids all the way out by myself then I can handle anything life throws at me. Aside from forgetting to buckle the boy into his car seat a couple of times, it went pretty well. We went out to an open space preserve around here — Skyline Ridge — and it went reasonably well aside from the car seat incidents. I told them we were going, prepared enough snacks and drinks (important, those snacks and drinks) and we drove in relative harmony over to have a nice little picnic and hike.

They surprise me, these kids, being better than I probably have a right to expect and making me laugh as much as I do, though the nighttime routines are getting a bit worn and not so carefree. Yelling doesn’t work, and even if it does feel like forever it really isn’t; it’s really only a few hours at most, at the most outside worst case but each minute feels like a lifetime when you’re waiting for them to fall asleep. So how about this instead: if I can enjoy their company during the day, I can certainly enjoy their company at night as well. Yeah, sure, and absolutely: it’s easier to go along and remain even-keeled; we are the bigger persons, and we need to act accordingly.

So now what? If I can remain patient with them for one hour, I can remain patient with them for the whole day. If I can remain patient for a whole day, I can remain patient for a whole week. A week becomes a month becomes a year and finally in the end a lifetime; everyone deserves to have the patience and respect forever, and if we can’t be reasonable with family, who are you going to turn to? I love that we have so many opportunities to exercise restraint and teach these lessons in control, right? You could do a lot worse than this. Not if I can: why can’t I?



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