My oldest child is a fifth grader which means we are up to our eyeballs in deciding to which middle school program he should apply. We live in a school district with multiple middle schools and several magnet programs and the whole thing came to a head early last week when he said in tears, “But Mom. What if I make the wrong choice? My whole life will be ruined!”
He was completely serious and those tears combined with his fears broke my heart. Of course, we grown-ups know that very few educational choices made in the sixth grade are truly going to ruin a person’s life. Hanging out with the kids doing meth at lunch? That will ruin your life. Taking Spanish instead of German? Not so much. But for my 10 year old child, this decision of what academic program best suits his interests and skills has the patina of being a life-changer.
My son has a goodly amount of my own angsty self in him. I was just the same kind of kid and so I have been very careful to not make comments that add to his stress. Of course, these things happen at times, but I try to be aware of word choice, inferred expectations, what have you. These past few days, I’ve been handing over tissues and thinking about how much simpler it would be if we lived in a tiny town with only one middle school option.
I’ve also been reminded of how much I wanted a Magic 8 Ball, or crystal ball, or anything that could tell my childhood self what I was supposed to do to “get it right” and not mess up my life. Thirty two years ago, it was me crying to my mother about the very same subject.
I know I am not alone in my wish for clarity. And while others may not have begged their mothers to tell them what was the right choice, many have hungered for a hint. If not, things like Magic 8 Balls, tarot card readings, palmistry, Ouija boards, and astrological advisors would not be such profitable markets.
Back at the beginning of January, I had a dream in which I found I was having baby number 4. For me, this was not a happy dream. More like a waking up with a sense of panic and pounding heart. I adore the children I have, that is not the issue. The issue is I’m 42 and the thought of being up 20 hours a day and going through post-partum depression again gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’m done with that part of my life.
The trouble is, I once thought I was done with that part of my life and then found myself pregnant with our Littlest. So even though my husband had a vasectomy five years ago and I took in three samples to prove he was no longer the fertile man he had been, I still get a bit paranoid at times. And in my paranoia, I really wish I had a Magic 8 Ball that could just give me a head’s up on what my future holds.
The crazy thing is, I have had two “paranormal” experiences on just that same subject and I ignored them both.
When our Middlest was just an infant, I was attending a speech tournament. In the judges’ lounge, my assistant coach and I were chatting with other coaches and in the process, I asked one coach if she knew the gender of her soon-to-be-born child. Her response was “well, the doctor says it’s a boy, but she says it’s a girl” and she gestured at her friend. The conversation turned to the paranormal realm and my assistant coach asked two things: the gender of her unborn baby and if I would have a third child. When the kind lady told me she saw a third child in my life, I was pretty adamant. Nope, not happening. Ixnay on the third aby-bay.
A few years later, my husband and I happened past a psychic in the Pike’s Place Market and I stopped in for a tarot card reading. The first thing she said was it is good that you are writing again, this is important for you to do. Then, about half-way through the reading, she says, “are you planning a third child?” Since I hadn’t mentioned I had 2 kids and since I was NOT planning a third child, my reaction was pretty strong and rather freaked out: “NO.” At which point she said, “you might want to open your heart to the option, just to be sure.” I think my response was a “thanks but no thanks” kind of thing.
I’m not here saying that everybody should go have their tarot cards read or have an astrological advisor. If that is something a person is open to doing, I’m fairly sure they have already done so. And for the nay-sayers out there, my point isn’t to convince people one way or another about the efficacy of the paranormal.
But I would like to say this. I really wish both the psychic and the tarot-card reader would have phrased their responses to me less in the “you might think about it” kind of way and more in the “better get prepared for what’s coming” kind of way.
It would have been quite handy to know to not sell all the baby gear in my possession two months before taking that positive pregnancy test.
I have to admit to wanting a tarot card reading, or some such thing. But these days I don’t want to hear about the number of kids I will have. Instead, I’d like to know what I’m going to be when I’m a grown-up. Because I still have no idea and I’ve been trying to figure this out since I was in elementary school. So far, all I’ve come up with is a short middle-aged woman with lots of grey hair, some laugh lines and a wonderful family. I’m not complaining, but it would make cleaning the bathroom and folding laundry a lot more enjoyable if I knew there was something super exciting coming in the future. Exciting like driving a MG convertible across France — and not exciting like buying newborn diapers again.