The Power of Not Yet
Barring a miracle, there are lots of things I will never be able to do.
I will never be invisible.
My arms will never work like wings.
I will never teleport, travel by portkey, or use floo powder.
These are things that defy the laws of nature.
There are also lots of things I can't do yet.
I can't fix a hole in a baby's heart yet.
I can't run a marathon yet.
I can't pilot a plane yet.
The reality is that I likely won't ever be able to accomplish these things because I am not investing time in pursuing them. As an adult, I recognize these are the choices I make. While I am not a heart surgeon, I love my role as a pediatrician, walking beside families as they go through the very scary reality of their baby requiring surgery. I have run some in the recent past but right now I am enjoying long walks in the woods. I actually have no desire to pilot a plane but I have directed a code that has saved a person's life. As adults, we have chosen which paths to walk down and which to set aside.
Every once in a while as an adult, we do still chase after a 'not yet.' I was never a runner until a few years ago when a friend told me she entered a 7-mile race because she heard I was going to run it and thought we could train together. I am not sure where the rumor came from that I was entered in a 7-mile race but I didn't want to let her down so we started running together. I also started running with my husband who does enjoy running and is always patient to run or walk at whatever pace I set. This new, unexpected hobby ended up being a way we could spend time together in the forest. To me, that felt a little like a miracle. You don't know how much I didn't enjoy running and there I was, enjoying it!
As adults, we have experienced accomplishment over and over again. I know if I want to be successful at something I have to invest time into it, fail a few times as I learn, and keep practicing. In this lifetime there will not be enough time to try everything, but I can choose which things to pursue. I also have the experience to realize some new things will become more rewarding with practice and others will not be worth the investment. For instance, I don't enjoy road biking. I could work hard to get better at it, to make the hills less painful so it would feel better. But I don't especially enjoy the flats and downhills either. So when I say, "I am not good at road biking yet," it is false because I never intend to get good at it. But when I say "I can't run a marathon yet," it is more true because perhaps someday I will want to try this.
Children don't have this arsenal of experience. When they see a basketball player repeatedly hit 3 point shots and think of how they can't even hit the rim, they feel daunted. Think of all the things they need to learn and how frustrating that is. They can't tie shoes, they can't read, they can't draw a person that actually looks like a person, they can't, they can't, they can't. Yet.
What a powerful, hopeful word that is. To a 3-year-old, it is just as out of reach for her to hit a home run with a baseball and a bat as it is to flap her arms like a bird and take off. But if she really works at it, someday she will be able to hit those home runs. It is our job to help set reasonable goals by adding the word "yet" to any possible thing a child can't do.
Although teens have a better understanding of what is possible and what is not, they also become discouraged when things are hard. We all do. If we start young, teaching children that hard things are not impossible things, they are achievable with time and practice, the power of the word "yet" is a great reminder in later years. When one of my children gets overwhelmed with an assignment and says something like, "I can't do this!" I pause for a second and then say, "yet." Sometimes this makes them roll their eyes at me. Sometimes it makes them smile because they remember all of the other things in their lives they told me they couldn't do but now can.
I strongly believe in creating a vision for where you want to go. When something seems too hard to bear, it is easier to stay the course if you have a clear sense of the destination. I want to raise confident kids who know they can achieve anything within the realm of possibility if they work hard enough at it. I don't set my expectations too high, I don't think. My vision isn't that they are the best at everything they try. It is that they have the tenacity to pursue challenges until they meet their goals. When they haven't reached a goal I want them to say to themselves, "I can't do this yet" because that empowers them to keep at it until they can. Some days, this mantra seems to work. Other days, less so. I guess I'd say in our family, we haven't mastered the power of yet... yet. So, we keep trying.