Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Not Is Not Not Is

Imagine walking into your History of World Religions class and seeing those words on the chalkboard. Following them is the lone word, "Explain."


My World Religions class in high school was one of the best classes I have ever taken (college courses included). Our teacher encouraged us to think and gave us the tools to answering questions rather than specific answers that could be regurgitated on a test.

The problem with this (in high school, at least) is that I didn't want to do any thinking on my own. I wanted answers that I could simply memorize handed to me. I was blessed with the ability to retain large quantities of information (before pregnancy destroyed my brain cells) and wanted to use this asset. Looking over mountains of facts and reciting them on tests was easy; it just took time, which was much easier (I thought) than developing my own thoughts and answers. Because of this, history was always one of my best subjects with its countless dates and events.

So, when I signed up for the History of World Religions, I expected the focus of the class to be on facts. I'd memorize the definitions and history of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. It'd be easy.

Imagine my overwhelming anxiety when our first test question was "IS NOT IS NOT NOT IS."

I read the statement over and over again. It didn't make sense. There was no question. The answer certainly was not in our book or the copious amounts of notes I took during the class. I looked around the room and felt sick to my stomach as I watched my peers share my confusion. I kept reading the words over and over again.

Finally, something clicked. "Is not" isn't "not is." This essentially means that all that is, is, and that anything that does not exist does not. I had the "a-ha" moment like the girl in Jurassic Park when she realizes the park is run on a Unix System and says, "I know this," thus saving them all from ravenous velociraptors. You get my point.

The answer to the philosophical religious question isn't important. The way I came to answer the question is where I see great importance. My wise teacher had given all his students the tools necessary to answering his clever question that really wasn't a question at all. We had been taught the definition of "is not" and "not is," but now we had to apply those meanings and see the actual question before even beginning.

My mind hurts even thinking about it.

I'm sure you're all thinking, "Great story, Celia. But really, what's your point (other than you like to brag about your memory and enjoy Jurassic Park)?"

Here it is: I think my expectations regarding this class are similar to my expectations regarding various aspects of my life and motherhood, in particular.

I think if I read enough books and learn enough facts, I can somehow always have the answers and "ace the test" without much effort. I often find there is no real solution to the specific problems I encounter, though. Dr. Weissbluth tells me how to get my baby to sleep, and it doesn't work for me. Dr. Karp teaches me how to have the "happiest baby on the block" and my children fuss all day. Various women write books about nursing, and I find myself the exception to many of their rules. I then find myself sorely disappointed.

While I realize these doctors and educated individuals do give me important tools of reasoning through their research and books, I also realize that as the mother to my unique children, it is my responsibility to know how to piece this information together and to know when to apply it.

Yes, my daughter is two and is not potty-trained. Yes, she still drinks from a bottle (only glass will do) at night. Yes, she wakes up most nights and needs us to comfort her before settling back down.

And yes, I have tried what the "experts" recommend to solve these "problems." More and more, I see that my child cannot be parented the way I expected. And therein lies most of my frustration. Why can't Eliza be "normal" and go to bed? Why can't Ezra and Elliott be "normal" and sleep more than two hours at a time? I'm applying all of the expert advice I've gathered, so why do I feel like a failure?

Unrealistic expectations.

As soon as I let go of all of my parenting books, I felt immensely relieved. I know they offer valuable information, but I also believe I expected too much from them.  I would rather learn from my fellow mothers (who I trust implicitly and why I love blogging so much) and rely on my own instincts.

In the end, it comes down to this simple fact:

I have intuition. I should trust it.

(I did pass that test with flying colors after all).


  1. I wish I knew your email address so I could write you. I just don't want to share too much personal stuff out in the open. But I know how you feel, and it's tough to be a parent. And I've decided it is normal to have a child that isn't like everyone else's because really everyone goes through different difficult things with their kids. I hope that makes sense.

  2. While I think all those people who wrote those books are very intelligent, I think my "P" personality prevents me from taking them either too seriously or too much to heart. Every child is different and you can never tell what will work with them until it does.

  3. I honestly was wondering "where is this going?" When i was reading the analogy thingy. It made sense in a way but i was very confused! AND.... you know i more than completely agree! I think to think that raising children or ANYTHING in life can be summarized in a book and completely explained makes me laugh. Even when i read No Cry Sleep Solution for Hayden you can see that the people are writing it for the successes. You don't hear about the failures or half successes (my little Eldie). So yeah... You just have to do the best YOU can do. And you are doing great! You love those babies (and Eliza) so much! And just fyi, Hayden didn't potty train until July of last year. And he was the earliest of ALL his friends. He was 29 months old. So just about Eliza's age. I wouldn't worry about it too much. I had a 10 month old and Hayden. It was easier then. You can't let anyone make you feel inferior because otherwise you are just short changing yourself! You are beautiful and fabulous and you and Nathan are the absolute right (and only right) parents for your little boys! :) Wow... i can ramble

  4. you had me at your reference to the Jurassic Park computer system.


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