There is a trend online to write lists of useful information - tips, lessons, hacks, shortcuts, truths.
They're compelling, these lists. It's heady, the idea that other people know what we don't know and can show us the way or illuminate (at least) the path.
I know a lot. I know how to roast a chicken and then make a pan gravy from the drippings.
I know how to write a rock-solid thesis statement and turn it into a paper, of pretty much any length.
I know about human trafficking, aid and development, international relations and what it's like to work in Washington DC, on K Street.
I know what it feels like to give birth, breastfeed, change diapers and feed tiny mouths the rest of my food, lest they go hungry.
But I honestly think there's just flat-out more that I don't know. I don't know how to change a tire. I don't know how to fire up a grill (seriously). I don't know how to plant anything, at all. I don't know why I am sometimes inexplicably sad, for no reason, on a random Wednesday at around 1:00.
There are some things I don't know and the not knowing weighs on me, keeps coming back to me, sometimes haunts me.
With that...10 Things I Don't Know:
1. How to Discipline My Children
Seriously, I stand there, in the throes of disrespectful behavior, broken glass, fights, inexcusable language and godknowswhatelse, and I have no idea what to do. I just stand, mouth agape, hoping some divine parenting intervention will come down from the heavens and whisper into my ear: two weeks grounded and take away after-school playtime with friends.
Never happens. I usually default to one of three options: promising a punishment at a later date (when I presume I'll know what to do), lecturing or imposing a punishment that has little relevance or meaning to the situation at hand.
So far, it's working. We'll see how kind, solvent and trustworthy they become.
2. How to Successfully Beat Egg Whites
What does glossy even mean in this context? And let's say I do whip them up good...how the hell do I 'fold' them in?
My little perfectionist housewife heart beats hard and fast against my chest, my apron strings literally constricting around my waist, when I think of it.
Needless to say, we don't have merengue pies and angel food cake around here often.
3. How To Talk About Wine Without Sounding Like an Asshole
I'm not sure anyone knows how to do this, though, so I'm in good company.
Have you ever been at a dinner party with someone who knows a little bit about wine? The legs. The notes of apricot. The bouquet.
I've pretty much realized that the only people who could possibly talk about wine without sounding pretentious....don't.
4. How to Gracefully Accept a Bouquet of Flowers and Arrange Them in a Vase Without Looking Like a Five Year Old
I get super shy when someone gives me flowers. Give me a candle, a bottle of wine or a fur coat: I'm good. Flowers? I just kind of lose it. I get all flustered and blush, as if the woman whom I invited to a dinner party is somehow making a pass at me by handing me a bunch of grocery store carnations or lilies.
I don't know what to do when I take the flowers. I have been told to put them immediately in water and set them on the table. This works for people like my sister, who has hostess skills oozing from her every pore and follicle. She can take flowers, smile graciously and exclaim over each variety (she knows even the rarest bud among them) and then shove them in a vase that somehow comes to the table looking like Martha Stewart popped in and arranged them herself.
I look like I may have learned flower arranging as part of an after school special for kindergarteners.
No, that's not true. The five-year-olds would be better.
5. How To Discuss a Book Without Becoming Strident
I love (and hate) books. I read them with a passion that some people find disturbing. I've basically stopped attending book clubs because the fact that other people don't care as much as I do is problematic for us all. People want to have fun at a book club. They want to drink wine or eat dessert. They want to say yay or nay on the book, maybe talk about a particularly compelling scene and then move on to vacation plans, work issues or what to do about a lingering suspicion their husbands are enjoying Game of Thrones a little bit too much.
I want to talk about themes, literary devices, whether or not I found the protagonist sympathetic, dialogue, and denouement.
You can imagine how popular I am.
6. How to Combine Marriage and Motherhood
By the time I get through the day, the chores, the errands, the homework struggles, the activity pickups and drop-offs, the fights over how much ice cream someone scooped into his bowl and the fact that someone wrote the word hello on the kitchen wall in tiny letters in Sharpie marker...I am done.
I feel like the top layer of my skin has been peeled off, and I'm raw and exposed.
I have nothing left to give to the person I pledged to give the most to, and I don't know how to fix that, if I should fix it or if this is just what it's like to be a parent in modern-America, a little breathless, disheveled and worn out.
7. What to Say When People Ask Me What Religion I Am
I was raised Mormon. At the age of 5, my parents divorced. At the age of 13, we stopped going to church. My parents just stopped believing, at different stages, and whether or not we believed (as kids) seemed irrelevant.
I can't describe the chasm that results when, at the age of 13, you don't know if what you believe is true, if what your parents believe is true or if anything will ever be true again.
8. What Will Happen When My Kids Leave Home
Will I fall apart? When my son started kindergarten, I was jazzed. For weeks, I was ready. I thought my days would finally be my own. I could workout and meet friends and write and maybe get a job. I was pumped.
Then he started school. For three solid weeks I cried daily. Daily. Multiple times a day. I wandered around the house and went into his room and then into my daughter's room and then back into the kitchen. I drank coffee and cried some more. I thought I was prepared for him to go off for a few hours, but I wasn't.
I can't imagine what will happen when they go off for good, to college, to jobs and spouses and other countries. I have images of doing all sorts of exciting things. But what if the reality is far less exciting? What if I find myself sitting at this very kitchen table, missing them and wandering around and looking for signs they were once here?
9. How to do Math in My Head
I have to use my fingers. Seriously. Even if I'm doing a multiplication problem involving large numbers, I have to use my finger to trace the problem in the air and then try (and usually fail) to come up with the answer the old-fashioned way.
There are people who can solve mathematical problems in their head, and they are basically killing it in life while the rest of us scratch our heads and drink (but do not discuss) wine.
10. How to Stop Caring...So Much...About Everything
That sounds like one of those interview answers when the interviewer asks: what is your greatest weakness. You reply: oh, I'm a perfectionist; I care too much and work too hard.
Insert eye roll.
Caring so much doesn't do anyone any good. It doesn't behoove my kids. It puts a lot of pressure on my marriage. I makes me persona non grata at book clubs.
There are days when I wish I could care just a little bit less. The tablecloth doesn't have to be a certain length. The words don't have to match up just so. The hair doesn't have to be perfectly flat or blown dry. The skin can be wrinkled. The house can be messy. The kids can not know who Hemingway was.
Okay, maybe we've gone too far. Let's strike that. Some things are worth caring about.
But seriously. Caring so much is exhausting, and not just for me.
As much as I love the allure of knowing it all or the possibility that someone else might have all the answers, I think the truest thing is that we're all standing, mouths agape, hoping someone else will whisper from above: do this.