Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Mother’s Handbook

The Christmas holiday season is often a time where old friends and family gets together to exchange stories and gifts and just to be in each others company. It is nice to spend time with people that you might get to see ordinarily, or people that you miss during the year. This past holiday season, I was catching up with an old friend who is studying music education somewhere in Maryland. She had just completed a semester student teaching at a grade school, also somewhere in Maryland, and we ended up discussing this stark realization that we both seemed to be coming to as we got older.

You see, when I was a little kid, I always thought there was a big giant book, something that had all the answers to all the mystical questions that ‘grown-ups’ read before they became ‘grown-ups’, probably somewhere in their senior year of college. It was this overwhelming cornacopia of knowledge about all the things that adults know. Things like how to cook eggs. Or how to change a tire on a car. Or how to go to the bank. Or how to get a job. Or, better yet, how to be a mom or a dad. All the things that it would be nice if there was a class about in high school or college, but for some reason we neglect to actually teach anyone.

My friend, after finishing her bout with student teaching, which she won for those of you keeping score at home, realized that in fact, there is no such book. Nope. You have to figure these things out on your own. The realization came to her after she had figured out that people were trusting her to teach other children things. Which is actually kind of terrifying. It’s incredibly terrifying. It’s so increidbly terrifying for two reasons, the first being that she (and I, is suppose) is old enough to be teaching little children things. The second reason is that somewhere someone deemed her fit to teach other children things. I mean, I think about what it takes to be a teacher and work with kids, and I know that there’s a lot of stuff that I wondered when I was a kid that I still wonder now, like, how to get a job. Mostly how to get a job.

My mom jokingly references a mythical text called The Mother’s Handbook when this subject comes up. It’s a wonderful book filled with all sorts of things that we learn when we grow up, all those things that are supposed to be learned somewhere in your senior year of college, before you enter the real world. How to balance a checkbook? There. How to cook anything other than ramen noodles in a coffee pot like in Parks and Rec? There. What to do when you’re kids ask you really hard questions? There. What to do when you have a kid? There. It’s all there. Anything you ever experienced and thought, yeah, all adults are taught that. It’s probably in The Mother’s Handbook. There’s only one teeney little problem.

There is no Mother’s Handbook. It doesn’t actually exist. It couldn’t actually exist. It’d use so much paper that the hug the tree’s people would never allow it. It would probably literally run the earth out of trees. This revalation may be a bit alarming to those of you reading through this expecting a link to Amazon at the end, where the glorious book of things adults should know is waiting to be bought. Nope. There is no such link. There is no such book. As it turns out, I’ve realized, the truth is that adults just make a lot of stuff up. And when you’re a kid you don’t know any better and you think it’s magic and there’s some book they all read and that’s how adults know all the things they do.

I used to be terrified of a lot of things.  Mostly because I thought I didn’t know how to do them. I wanted to read the book everyone else had read and catch up and then I’d know all the things too. Then I could grow up and be an adult. The truth is that the reason adults know a lot of the things that they do, is because they got all those things wrong at some point or another.  The other truth, is that I’m still terrified of a lot of things.  The thing that no one tells you, probably because no one thinks of it, is that learning things that you don’t know isn’t all daisys and rainbows. It’s embarassing and humiliating and humbling. It’s opening yourself up and saying, “I don’t know this.” It’s feeling like an idiot and taking a wild guess at something and getting it completely wrong. Then taking another guess based on what you learned from the first one. It’s being ok with having no clue what’s going on, and making something up instead.

So no, there is no Mother’s Handbook, or some other encyclopedia of knowledge that if the holy grail all of us so called “tenty-somethings” have been looking for. We just have to get out there and make stuff up. I think, if we do, we’ll find we’re actually a little smarter than we thought we were. Thanks for reading.