Fantasy vs. reality

Ever since I was a young child, I’ve had a very rich fantasy life. Back then, I was easily able to imagine that I was Scarlett O’Hara merely by wearing a makeshift hoop skirt. It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by appliances, cars and buses, and every other facet of modern life. As long as I was wearing my costume, I was back at the plantation, going to balls and swooning in the heat. And, I fully believed that everyone else was right there with me.

As a teenager, although I gave up the external costumes, I often lived out fantasies in my own alternate universe, practicing for what could be. At that point, I was aware enough that the fantasies were mine alone but the fact remained that an unlived triumph or relationship was still as satisfying to me as the real thing.

By the time I was an adult I had lived many lives and was prepared, through sheer diligence of mental practice for a multitude of situations. But, I finally realized that my fantasies were sometimes getting in the way of reality, often causing me to miss or bypass exploring opportunities and relationships that life was offering me.

Recently, I was confronted by an old boyfriend who popped up in my life. I had been looking for him for over nine years and, by a fluke of fate, unexpectedly tracked him down. After talking with him for some time, and finding that he had also been looking for me and wondering all these years, I easily switched back into fantasy mode, imagining the possibility of a life together rich with babies, joy, and laughter.

As I laughingly told this to a friend, I realized that the difference between my current fantasy world and that of the past is that I’m now wise enough to know that it’s a fantasy and to enjoy it for what it is without letting it interfere with the evolution of my real life. And, that if I’m interested enough, I’ll have to take steps to explore its potential in reality, open to the possibilities that might be there or the closure to an old story that is carrying the tentacles of my past.

Thinking about my son, who at the age of three is starting to have a rich life of imaginary play, I’m struck by how important it is to foster his imagination, nurturing the environment that he lives in so that he can grow accustomed to living in various fantasies, trying on and discarding various roles that he is interested in so that he can see potential in different situations and practice his abilities in a low risk environment. Equally true, is the importance of teaching him to know the difference between fantasy and reality so that he is able to take comfort in the safety of his mind while easily grasping and walking through the inviting doors of a rich and varied life.

Everyone’s got an opinion

When I was pregnant with my first child, aside from the ‘Big Love’ everyone guaranteed me was coming my way, parents, family, friends, and even complete strangers started giving me unsolicited advice and tips from the parenting trenches. It quickly became clear how much I didn’t know and needed to learn in order to create a healthy baby and then raise a well-adjusted, intelligent, happy, and contributing member of society.

So, I started to read. I read about what I needed to eat during my pregnancy. I read about the ideal delivery method for minimizing birthing trauma to the baby. And I read about what to do once the baby came home and parenting officially began.

By then, I was eight months pregnant and almost insane with a craving to engage in gluttony with anything deep-fried or composed of pure refined sugar. I refrained, of course, because all the books promised that as long as I followed their listed recommendations, I would be the perfect mother raising the perfect child.

Then, I gave birth and reality set in. It first appeared in the delivery room when the doctor pulled out the forceps and all I could hear were fourteen scandalized voices whispering ‘She won’t push anymore, she just won’t! And she took the epidural!’.

Reality then followed me home. And it was there, subject to randomly unsolicited proclamations about how ‘This baby needs an undershirt’ and dictates about the unequivocal superiority of specific feeding and sleeping schedules, that I realized something. Everyone’s got an opinion. And when it comes to babies and parenting, everyone feels entitled to air it.

When I asked my cousin, a veteran mom of three kids, if she had ever noticed this trend during her mothering career, she started to laugh. Oh, do you mean when people from older generations let you know how much better their way is (In my day, we had babies eating solids and toilet-trained by the age of three months, sniff)? Or, do you mean when people talk to you through your baby (Poor you. Your little hands are soooooooooo cold. Your mommy didn’t dress you warmly enough this morning.)? Or, do you mean other parents who don’t tell you what to do directly, but let you know what they think anyway (Oh, are you doing that? or Oh, I wouldn’t do that!).

Listening to her, I laughed and the tension that had enveloped me in my endeavor to be the perfect mom that never made a mistake started to dissipate. In that instant, I realized that parenting is a process. There are no last chances for success. As long as you love your child fiercely, do the best that you can do at any given moment, and forgive yourself for the moments that you don’t, things will turn out more than ok.