Translating wisdom gained too late

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More than 30 years ago, a group of church ladies invited my best friend to speak about her experience as a summer missionary abroad to their women’s prayer group. The ladies lived about 30 miles from where my friend and I were in school. She invited me to join her that evening — and I did.
For some reason, the lady who introduced my friend to the group began talking about soap. For reasons lost to time, this woman was on a personal mission to educate others, starting with her prayer group, to the dreadfulness and terrors soap causes the human body. Instead, she was a fan of a particular soap-less cleanser. I had never heard such and was fascinated.
This soap-hater also happened to be a new mother. At one point in her tirade against soap, she mentioned her infant baby boy, and said, “And soap will never touch my son’s body.” (For the record, I believe she was also a new distributor of a cleanser that contained no soap.)
My friend and I were college-aged girls, the youngest in the room. No one else seemed to think this woman was off her rocker in the least, but my friend and I didn’t dare make eye contact. We knew we would lose it if we did. Throughout our drive back that night, we said repeatedly in as dramatic tones as possible, “Soap will never touch my son’s body.”
We still say it to this day, in fact, — and have wondered through the years just how many times soap has touched her son’s body.
I share that story because I have a confession. While it wasn’t about soap, I became that kind of woman for a few years about my first child’s education.
I will own it. I was a crazy person. Much like the soap-abhorring lady who introduced my friend years ago, I thought every decision I made about my child mattered so much. I guess no one can tell women like that, “Hey, cool it. Your son will use soap one day — and he will be OK.” Or “Hey, cool it. Your daughter will not be prepared for her SATs by the time she’s 11 — and she will be OK.”
A young parent I know and love recently agonized over the decision of where to send his three-year-old son to school. He mentioned one option that met the family’s every need, but the school used the same curriculum for both three and four-year-olds. He was concerned about how bored his son would be when he was four.
I heard my years-ago self in his words and voice. I knew I would have had the same concerns. I would have moved heaven and earth for my child to be in what I perceived as the best educational option. I also knew I probably wouldn’t have listened to someone who tried to tell me otherwise.
Intellectually, surely I knew back then that children being in loving, supportive educational environments is just as, if not more, important that the educational latest bells and whistles. Additionally, surely I knew that what happens at home, including reading, play and conversation, makes an even bigger difference than what happens a couple of mornings a week at pre-school.
Even though I knew it, I was chasing something back then, thinking I had to get every aspect just right. In retrospect, I wish I would have chilled out more — and I wish I could share my now realization to lessen the stress of other parents going through similar situations now.
On the other hand, perchance the gift of past-tense awareness is about something bigger. Maybe it’s not about realizing something too late or sharing wisdom with anyone else.
Perhaps it’s an opportunity to use the wisdom gained too late for one situation just in time for another.

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