My wise friend Bill Hogan recently shared a line from "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel": "Everything will be all right in the end ... if it's not all right, then it's not yet the end."
I am grateful to him for sharing that with me. There is something calming, reassuring and hopeful about its message. While the sentiment is similar to the ephemeral "This too shall pass" or the desperate "Tie a knot at the end of your rope and hang on," this is more about patience and acceptance.
This reminds me that no one has ever asked me for my goals as a mother. I have been asked about my goals for my children. Maybe I would be better served to know the goals for myself as their mother. If asked, I would have to say that I strive to be patient and accepting with them and with myself. Borrowing from a metaphor that regards children as unknown wildflower seeds, I would explain it like this Patience for the child to bloom in the season she is meant to do so and not at my convenience. Acceptance (and unconditional love) for whatever flower she might become.
As a teacher, I have long believed in the power of yet, which is closely tied to this notion of patience and acceptance. When a child is not reading, it is much more accurate and heartening to think of it as a child who is not reading yet. This thinking helps the child, the parent and the teacher. Still, I did not fully embrace the power of yet until I became a mother. People would make disparaging remarks about my 16-month-old who wasn't walking. I was a wreck. I didn't have to ask for advice. Everyone volunteered a version of her future because she wasn't meeting this major milestone. It was my mother who finally said, "She won't crawl into her college dorm room." Right. She'll get there and she did. (She is 9 now and very fleet footed I might add). She just wasn't walkingyet.
If only we could just hold on to that notion of yet when it comes to our children instead of rushing to "why" or "why not." We look for the silver bullet the quick fix. I'm afraid the "fix" is often patience and acceptance nothing quick about it.
When the "why" or "why not" involves a diagnosis, a problem or a disability, we must be patient with ourselves first. We must allow ourselves time to grieve. In that time, we will deny vehemently, anger easily, bargain desperately, and even withdraw temporarily. We must be patient until we come to acceptance.
When it comes to our children, we have goals for them - visions of what their lives will be. Life can derail those plans. What we need to do is maintain hope. After all, if it feels like things are not working out in the end, then it is not yet the end.
- Elizabeth Hofreuter-Landini is head of school at Wheeling Country Day. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She and her husband have two daughters, ages 5 and 9.