“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Did anyone NOT hear this quote at some point in their high school graduation ceremony?
I get it – it's the perfect quote for a high school graduation. Can you name another maxim that flatters both the adolescent's hunger for glory and total refusal to accept the possibility of consequences? Maybe the not-really-James-Dean-but-always-attributed-to-James-Dean “live fast die young,” but that's a little dark for an early June graduation ceremony, no?
The guy responsible for the whole shoot-for-the-moon pearl is 1950's minister, pop psychologist, and groundbreaking Dr. Phil predecessor Norman Vincent Peale.
The man knew how to sell a book. How to sell “positivity” as the cure for literally everything.
But he didn't know diddly shit about parenting. And let me tell you why.
Here's what happens to all of us new parents.
You have a kid.
You love your kid.
You want to give your kid a childhood of magic and delight.
You see other people's Facebook pictures and you yearn to be in their families.
They show you photographic proof that you can have an adventure with your children that won't leave you day-drinking in the bathroom thinking “thank God that's over.”
Their kids are experiencing magic and delight – a lovely dinner at a restaurant, everyone in his own chair, everyone smiling and eating vegetables; the family riding bikes together through an orchard, nary a beesting or a scraped knee or a whiny “but I'm tiiiiiiired” among the cheerful clan; the toddler at his weekend glassblowing workshop, his golden curls springing out from around his safety goggles.
And that's when you make the critical error.
You think, “you know what? Let's go for it.”
Shoot for the moon, right?
I've been there.
On a recent weeknight I didn't feel like cooking. Ryan was home, we had money in the bank, gas in the car, and our one and only lives to live! Who says we can't take a 2-year-old and a 7-month-old out to dinner? Of course we can and it's going to be GREAT! SHOOT FOR THE MOOOOOOON!
I can get a cold beer. Chicken will color in his coloring book. Buster will charm the other diners with his gummy grin. Ryan and I will look at each other across the table and think “I don't regret my life choices.”
At least I got the beer.
First, we forgot baby food for poor toothless Buster.
I started dipping pieces of dinner rolls in water and stuffing them in Buster's mouth. Buster responded the way any human would when gagged with moist bread.
As his face turned purple in the terrible slow-motion seconds before his wail, the server started over to see if he could help. I picked up the baby, shouting with the insane persistence of a highly allergic professional auctioneer who'd been assured by her doctor that in a pinch a banana could substitute for an epi pen quite nicely.
“DO YOU HAVE A BANANA? A BANANA? BANANA. BANANA. I NEED A BANANA FOR THE BABY! IF YOU COULD LOOK FOR A BANANA! PLEASE!”
The server, frozen in his tracks, could only stare with his mouth half-open as I pulled my shirt down, still standing halfway between our table and the server station, and attempted to get the writhing, screaming baby onto my already-leaking nipple.
Meanwhile, like the velociraptor in Jurassic Park, Chicken figured out how to open the clasp for the high chair after about 45 seconds, so while I used the tines of my fork to smash the antipasto appetizer into a gray prosciutto-olive-goat-cheese pseudo-puree (which Buster promptly threw up), Ryan chased Chicken in and out of bathroom stalls, some of which were unoccupied.
That was an evening that the other diners will never forget.
Both of them.
I think they were like battalion buddies in WWI. They too smashed their antipasto to a paste before bringing trembling spoonfuls to their lips. What can I say? These are your peers when you go out to dinner at 4:45 pm.
Anyway. I shot for the moon that day. I missed. And yes, I landed among the stars…
in the sense that I landed in an airless, infinite vacuum where nobody could hear me scream.
Sometimes everybody needs a reality check, a Newtonian reminder of the critical importance of gravity.
And girl, I am here to whip that apple at your head.
Sometimes, you must crush your ambition to do the extraordinary, and just go with the thing that always fucking works.
Sometimes you must say to yourself NO. Today is not the day to take the children to the beach for a picnic. Today you are not strong enough to keep them from Virginia Woolfing in the sound, to win the fight against the crows when the children run in opposite directions down the beach and leave their peanut butter sandwiches unattended. Today you don't have enough will to live to BOTH live, AND to cheerfully change everyone's sand-crusted diapers in the back of the car. No. Today is the day to watch four back-to-back episodes of Sesame Street so nobody has to talk during dinner. Which will be pizza.
Sometimes you must say “fuck the moon” and fall back to this Earth and be cradled by its incontrovertible laws:
The computer will turn on.
The pizza restaurant's delivery site will work.
I will click “submit order,” and in less than an hour a box of piping hot joy will arrive at my door.
THE CHILDREN WILL EAT IT.
I will eat it.
And nobody will have to wash a single pot.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you'll land among the stars.”
Try “Shoot for the ground. You literally cannot miss it. Just sit down.”