My kids just love the anticipation of completing those connect-the-dot activity sheets. Seemingly out of nowhere, an ice cream cone or Minnie Mouse’s head magically appears. While these activity sheets might be fun and teach kids about prediction and illustration, playing connect-the-dots with the fragmented details we know about other people’s lives and their parenting styles can be a dangerous little game to play.
The truth is, no matter how much we know someone, we really only know the numbers they share with us. Yes, you might be aware of someone’s 1, 7, and 10, but the 2 through 6 and the 8 and 9 are so important if you are to really understand someone. It really isn’t accurate or fair when you try to connect the dots on your own, based on what you think happened or what you think you know. I am not a particularly secretive person, but there are many times when people have me or my personal pursuits pegged all wrong. What’s the right thing to do? Trying to clarify or justify myself just seems apologetic and grimy. “No, no, I am not really this way or that way,” “No, no, I am not telling how you should do it, I am just sharing how I do it.” Exhausting and yucky.
The thing I try to remember is that everyone has a story. Everyone has many stories, in fact. Many of these stories will most likely break your heart or shock the heck out of you. And I kind of like that about people. Case in point: I was playfully razzing a student about being absent a lot lately. “Oh, senior-itis, eh?” “No,” he says, “I had a seizure.” Well, sweet Baby Jesus, wasn’t I served? Note to self: don’t try to connect-the-dots. Another note to self: STFU.
Even if we know a detail about a person, we don’t necessarily know the logic, emotions, or experiences behind said detail, especially when it comes to the way we parent. Therein lies the trouble: we tend to make it up, fill in the gaps and connect the dots. And the final image may not be an accurate depiction of us at all. Minnie Mouse quickly becomes an Angry Bird if we don’t know all the deets.
Like many others, I don’t always consciously make life choices, they are made FOR me in one way or another. I simply try to roll with the punches and make the proverbial lemonade. At the end of the day, I yam what I yam, as Popeye would say. I can’t spend valuable time and energy ‘splaining all my personal or parenting beliefs and decisions, lest someone call them wrong.
Maybe we can trust that there is usually a story behind the decisions people make. While the misconceptions and distorted “connect-the-dot” images of us might be upsetting or bothersome, we just need to be confident in the way we choose to do things and trust that everyone is just feeling their way through this whole life and parenting thing, one dot at a time.