The unbelievable - FamilyEducation

The unbelievable

November 21,2008
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

My day started yesterday with the alarm ringing loudly at 5:45. The day before I had the brilliant idea that I would get up 25 minutes earlier than I usually do so I could...chop up vegetables. I've been trying to get back on that meal-planning wagon, and lamenting recently that I haven't used my crock pot much. One fatal flaw with the crock pot is that in order to have a nice, steaming vegetarian stew ready for you by 6:00 p.m., you have to actually start the thing in the morning before you leave the house. I didn't manage to get up at 5:45 because I forgot, when it first rang, why I had been so foolish as to even set my alarm for 5:45. So I hit the snooze button. There was no hot vegetarian stew to eat at 6:00 pm yesterday, let alone to write about for this column (although I am planning on making it later today--so stay tuned).

Thursday went racing off from there--work, meetings, speech therapy for T., whirling back around to go downtown to pick up L., homework battles (drat that Professor Mathhopper, I am so tired of him), then a late meeting, kids deposited in my office with a sitter, then back home again. When I was sitting in the waiting room at speech earlier in the day, I overheard a conversation between two women. One was reading this book, and talking very excitedly to the other woman about how true it is, and how it changed her life. If you haven't watched the DVD, or read the book, I gather the gist of it is that if you can only think positively enough, you will somehow bend the universe in your favor. The motto seems to be "the unbelievable is attainable."

"Every time I'm late somewhere," the woman told the other one, "I just imagine that I will hit all green lights, and then I do!"

"Wow..." the other woman said in awe.

Wow, I thought.

I haven't seen the film or read the book, but I can't help worrying a little about all those people who are positive and cheerful and spiritual, and yet the universe keeps on refusing to bend in their favor.

As I was driving home from the meeting yesterday, stalling in the long lines of red tail lights with the hungry, tired kids in the back, L. began his ritual yelling and crying about how we were going to miss Maya & Miguel, his 5:30 p.m. weeknight staple. Every month, when I stay for this meeting, he misses the first 15 minutes or so of his beloved show. Every month he wails about it the whole way home as I drive, trying hard to focus on the road, breathing in that steady way they tell you to do when you're in labor. Yesterday evening was particularly bad. The universe was decidedly against us, and we must have hit every single red light from my school to the top of the hill where the road breaks off and heads down to our house. Every time the light turned from yellow to red, L. would let out a piercing wail and I'd breathe, thinking positively to myself, the next light will be green, the next light will be green, the next light will be green.

But they were all red.

When we finally pulled up and the kids tumbled out of the car, L. racing like a madman for the front door, I thought longingly about that stew that never got made.

Maybe it IS in the crock pot, I thought to myself. Maybe I DID chop up those vegetables after all (it had been a long day).

There was no stew. I had that moment of bottomless despair you get when you're a tired parent and you've finally made it home at 5:50 p.m. only to be faced with the prospect of dinner. But then my husband swooped down and we cooked up some pasta with pesto, popped a bag of green peas in the microwave and some fresh bread in the oven, and did something we rarely do: We let the kids eat their dinner in front of the TV. We sat down to a quiet, peaceful dinner, just the two of us, and had one long, uninterrupted, grown-up conversation that had absolutely nothing to do with aviation or T.'s friend H. at school, and no one made unappetizing sounds with their mouths or ate with their hands.

Maybe the unbelievable IS attainable after all?