Monday, March 7, 2011

Bag 'O Worries

Jolly Ranchers: the king of all candies.
When I was little, we used to go out trick-or-treating on Halloween with pillowcases as bags.  They had enormous capacity, plus they never ripped. We came home with our loot slung over our shoulders like hobos, and then dumped it all out on the kitchen table for the Sorting Process.

Those bitter, chalky Necco Wafers went straight to the Undesirables pile. Same with Bit 'O Honey, which always welded one's jaw together and wasn't tasty enough to suck on for half an hour.  Skittles, Starburst, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and the king of all candies, Jolly Ranchers: to the Highly Desirable pile, and collect $200 on your way past Go.

Well, I'm still trick-or-treating... at night... with a pillowcase. It takes a good hour or two for my wheels to stop spinning at night, so as I lie awake sleeplessly tossing and turning, I am sorting through all the assortied goodies and baddies I collected during the day. It's my Bag O' Worries.

Today, for example: while having Sunday brunch in a restaurant with another couple, we were chatting about the state of education in Mexico today. The husband had commented humorously on the "flexible morals" of the Mexican people... and now he commented on the "flexible sense of responsibility" in most teachers today. Kids don't study and the teachers don't demand from them. It's all very loose and free, he said. Now, I had seen this in the months I spent working toward an MBA here at a university in Xalapa. Even at the postgrad level, the students were cheating, plagiarizing, copying, sharing answers out loud during a test when the teacher (O Thou Enabler!) left the room. I can only imagine how it is on the high school level.

So naturally, I started to worry. What will my daughter learn?  Will she learn anything?  Will there be high standards?  Will she learn to cheat and be lazy?

Necco Wafer!  Chalky and gross!

Then there is the question of money. My parents saved and were frugal so that each of their three kids could go to a private college or university. They believed in education, so they sacrificed to give us the best possible options. Now, both my husband and I have decent-paying jobs, plus a side business. But will we be able to pay $40,000 a year (times 4) for two or three children?  What about buying a house and saving for retirement? How will we do it?

Bit O'Honey!  Wish you were a bit o' money. Or a lot.

So these worries go spiralling around and around in my head. And they all converge on one object: our daughter, our future babies, and the great task of educating them-- in the broadest sense of the word, not just academically, but for life.

When I mentioned the how-will-we-find-a-good-school worries to my husband, who never has trouble sleeping, he said, "We have five years before we cross that bridge and we don't know what can happen in that time. Go to sleep." Sage advice.

After all, a nuclear bomb could strike Mexico and then we'll have an entirely different set of worries... let's see, now what would we do if we survived the radiation...?

The problem is, I can't just "Go to sleep." I'm not wired that way. So I bring my Bag O' Worries to someone who actually has the answers of eternal wisdom.

Help us. We need help. I need help. I can't do this by myself.

I toss and turn some more. And then other, sweeter nuggets from the day rise to the top of the pile. I remember what the priest said at Mass last week when he said that money alone will not save us, that we can't put our trust in money but only in God. Yes, I believe that.

And then I realize that all I'm really worried about is for my daughter to flourish like a tree that grows up straight and strong, full of healthy branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit. I just want her to be everything she was created to be. I want to make sure we give her the best opportunities we can so that all of the potential inside of her is developed, so that she is strong and good and wise and happy and holy. Whatever her talents are, I hope we can help her develop them in the context of a balanced and happy life. At bottom, I realize, I want her to be what God wants her to be.

Then I remember St. Irenaeus' words, "The glory of God is man fully alive." God wants her to flourish even more than I do! I'm not alone. We're not facing an impossible task by ourselves.

So I have the image in my mind of me giving my hobo Bag O' Worries to someone stronger who can carry them for me, to the Good Shepherd, the Jolly Rancher who took a jaunt with me through another uselessly sleep-deprived night.

And he says, "Mind if I hold that for you tonight?  You don't need to carry all that right now. Tomorrow's another day and you're on the right track. Now go to sleep!"

Sage advice.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

WHAT?! Jolly Ranchers? Better than M&M's? Better than SNICKERS?! What is WRONG with you?

Anyway, you're so right. You gotta let those worries out of your hands! Don't be like a kid trying to sleep still clutching your candy bag. ;)

As far as school goes, it seems to me that any child learns WAY more from their parents than they do from school. My students are all so incredibly different, but when I see their parents, I understand them way better. The principled, hard workers have principled, hard-working parents. The happy-go-lucky, school-is-just-for-fun times have parents like them too. All of my ranting about responsibility and studiousness goes in one ear and out the other -- it's their parents who are raising them.

So, no matter what the school system is like, I think your daughter is likely to turn out like you and JC. I personally think that's a good thing!