Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ikea Instructions: Step 5

I have a lot of keys on my key ring. The sheer amount could be mistaken as a sign of status or importance, and that assumption would, in fact, be a mistake. My many keys could also be misconstrued as metaphoric; you know--there are many doors available, many options from which to choose, endless possibilities--a Robert Frost rip-off waiting to be exploited and put on a poster. That's not it either. I have many keys because life is complicated.

That's an interesting word that gets a bad rap--complicated. I don't see it as a negative, I see it as a synonym for intricate. Merriam Webster defines it as "having many parts or steps." They also define it as "hard to explain or define." That's all. But when we hear something is complicated, we instantly share a reactive look of concern mixed with wincing. We fear complicated because we crave easy. We want things that are easy to understand, we want the world to go easy on our kids, we just want everything to go smoothly. That's why we both love and loathe Ikea instructions; they seem easy until about Step 5 when the diagram doesn't quite make sense-it's just a little too Scandinavian.

Well, this year I acquired two new keys which brought me to Step 5 of my life's Ikean schematic. And you want to know the ironic thing, it all honestly felt like the simplest thing to do.

The nuts and bolts of it are: Teenager #1 wanted to go to a different High School. He came to us and said he was miserable and we remembered that quote about the definition of crazy. So instead of making him repeat the same thing over and over, we let him search for a new school. One thing led to another, we needed to establish residency, we needed to notarize papers about custody and now I have two more keys on my key ring. It's far less August Osage than it reads. It's just a different solution to a problem with many parts and steps. We're still one big happy weird family, we just live in two different places, go to two different schools and are all together only on the weekends.

Complicated. Some might even say crazy or irrational; yet it is surprisingly freeing. The world has opened up. There is no longer just one right school or one right path, or one right way to be a family. In the first week alone Teenager # 2 successfully negotiated public transportation home on his own. Teenager #1 has done more homework in the past week than I saw him do all last year. Husband and I have gone out twice, one more outing and we'll break last year's record. It's possible we're all growing up.

When our kids are babies, and even before, we see how clearly their lives will go. Even the most buddhist of us see clearly that our children will go to school, get their driver's license, go to college, get an apartment with friends, find a job, fall in love, visit on holidays, etc. We talk a good game of letting them become who they will be, but we still see the path lit before us like an airplane landing strip. That is why we panic when they want to land somewhere else. We cannot clearly see success and independence and happiness on that course, we must stick with the flight plan we logged.

Except that we don't. We can let the world be bigger than we imagined. We can entertain the ridiculous. We can revel in the complicated. We can put the wrong bolt in the base of the book case and the bookcase will still hold books. And that is why I have a lot of keys this year.

Some people have told us that we are good parents for doing this. Some people look at us with a mix of concern and wincing and simply say "Wow." I don't know if it's good, or bad, or strange or crazy; it's simply the next of many steps we continue to take as parents. Some of these many parts are bound to go horribly awry, this is an experiment not a cure. It is scary and exciting and wakes up the senses because it is uncharted. It is an adventure we're ready to suit up for.

It is complicated, and makes for a cumbersome key ring, but sometimes life asks us to go a little Scandinavian.


  1. I think this was a very courageous (yes, and complicated) thing to do for Teenager #1. A perfect example of being the mother (and father) bunny. If that reference doesn't make sense, here's my own post about being an excellent parent:

  2. Well done, you Scandinavian Mama you!! xoxo