“If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.” I remember well hearing that expression as a child, but I never fully understood the particulars of its meaning. It was a curious phrase, for certain, leading me to assume that it had something to do with wishing for stuff that I didn’t especially need. Like a pony.
Needless to say, my charges are equally baffled by such utterances, shooting me that patented Mom-is-slightly-deranged look whenever I make mention of the horses and beggars blurbage. “We’re not asking for a PONY, Mom—just a golden retriever and a hotel thingy for our hamsters.” Odds are, I reach for such an idiom because, as a parent, I’ve grown weary of my brood’s ceaseless petitioning for this-that-and-the-other-foolish-thing (i.e. the coveted bit of commercialized schlock without which they would surely wither and die). Truth be told, over time I’ve become fairly intolerant of the phrase, “I want…” or “I wish…” when coupled with anything even remotely frivolous—especially as we lurk ever nearer to the season of good cheer.
I suppose, however, that my plight in this regard is not all that uncommon. Whiny children are ubiquitous, and the allure of summoning hope in the face of impossibility is simply too delicious for any of us to resist. That said, we all wish for things we cannot have—if only to taste, ever so fleetingly, what could be. It’s as if we forget for a moment our practical selves and instead indulge in unbridled possibility. At least I do.
So I guess I shouldn’t expect anything less from my progenies. Nor should I be appalled to learn that one of them had the audacity to make a desperate plea for something entirely self-serving—like the abolishment of a certain brand of schoolwork. Technically speaking, she didn’t actually MAKE the wish (or so I was later informed), but its merits were heavily weighed against the drawbacks. Thankfully, she came to her senses.
“I’ve been thinking about my wishing stone, Mom…” (i.e. the perfectly wonderful keepsake harvested from the shores of Nova Scotia by two of the most thoughtful neighbors I’ve encountered in recent memory). “I really hate math and I almost wished that math homework were NEVER INVENTED!”
Of course, I gasped for dramatic effect.
“But then I realized if I didn’t have math homework, I’d probably never learn how to cash my paychecks and stuff—which would be entirely horrible,” she continued.
“Good point,” I acknowledged. “Lucky for everyone, you didn’t follow through.”
“Yep. I saw a shooting star once and wished that I could see my third grade teacher AND THE VERY NEXT DAY I got to visit her. Shooting stars really work, Mom…if you wish hard. I’m pretty sure this stone will work, too, so I might think about wishing I could fly next—which would be awesome, but it’s sort of silly, isn’t it? People can’t fly.”
And at that, I was silenced. All my mothering instincts and kernels of wisdom abandoned me, rendering me incapable of a coherent response. A wish is still a wish, right? Whether exceedingly outlandish or pitifully sensible. Whether it’s spelled out in great detail upon the pages of one’s diary, cleverly sandwiched within a Dear Santa letter or whispered with earnest into the folds of one’s blankets, long after tuck ins are complete and the shroud of night has fallen. Perhaps I would do well as the appointed curator of my kids’ beloved supplications to handle them with more care, resisting the urge to dismiss them as trifling or unworthy of anyone’s time.
Indeed, nothing serves to ground me more than being privy to their cache of profoundly compassionate longings—the ones so completely unrelated to that which is fanciful or imprudent.
“I wish Freddy didn’t have to move away.”
“I wish everyone in the world had a house to live in.”
“I wish Mister Binx (our cat) could go outside again. I miss playing with him in the yard.”
“I wish Grandma’s cancer would go away.”
More than once I’ve made the mistake of assuming that the “I wish…” portion of their plea would be followed by something entirely foolish. Shame on me.
Likewise, I distinctly remember wishing my oldest daughter would grow up sooner—because it seemed vastly more impressive to parent a child whose age in years could be expressed with two digits, as opposed to something as unremarkable as an eight or a nine. Naturally, it followed that having a teenager trumped having a 12-year-old, and so on. So many years later, it is plain to see that my wish was granted—a wish I now lament ever having made.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (ever-mindful of the gravity of wishes—great and small). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.
Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel