A Guest Post
Towering Obligations: Embracing Imperfections
My one and a half-year-old son, Langston, and I play with a set of ten soft rubbery blocks. On one side of each block is its assigned number between one and ten, on the opposite side is the corresponding number of shapes. The remaining four sides of the block are filled with the corresponding number of animals. Once Langston’s friend, Okech, picked up a block, his mom asked him what was on it, he thought for a moment and shouted out, “Butterfly!” I gasped, maybe audibly. How amazing! Langston has not yet said anything so majestic.
But he does play with the blocks, stacking them, with my help, one on top of another on top of another … until they all come crashing down. If they don’t crash on their own, Langston will knock them over and laugh.
Eventually, he gets bored with the tower game and starts throwing blocks. I admonish him to stop, even though they are soft enough not to do any lasting damage. In the meantime, I worry about whether he’s playing with them the way he’s supposed to, or whether his throwing is a sign that he won’t be a nurturing male when he’s older. I can imagine what my mom would say, “He’s just playing with them.”
The balance of my day job, family and writing is about as steady as that block tower; in other words, there is no balance. I constantly make mistakes as I strive to integrate them all. I stack up obligations, then stress out that I’m failing. I worry so much about writing majestically that the act of writing itself becomes obliterated by failure. I focus on what I’ve done wrong instead of what I’ve done well, while to me, everyone else has attained
Luckily, as one of my favorite authors, Tayari Jones, mused in a blog post, “I’m nothing if not self-aware.” I can usually feel when the balance has shifted too far in one direction after I get it wrong. Then I try to make amends, whether I’m allowing Langston to play–within reason–the way he wants to and not the way I want him to, whether I put the writing aside for a while to play with my son or whether I ask my husband if he can please play with Langston so I can get back to the words again.
I’ve concluded, at least for now, that making mistakes and learning from them are part of the balancing act. In fact, the mistakes might even hold everything together.
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