One of my favorite shows as a kid was Nickelodeon’s “You Can’t Do that on Television.” If at any time in the show a person said “I don’t know”, they got a bucket of green slime dumped on them from above. Also in my years of growing up, one of the most annoying answers I could ever give my dad was “I don’t know”. It came in response to a variety of questions, some in the order of explaining myself after getting into trouble, other times, just plain apathy to answer my father. The phrase has been phased out through more and more of my adult years. However, there are so many times in my day I would love to give out a simple “I don’t know” to my family when asked such things as “what are we having for dinner?”, “where are my shoes?”, “was the electric bill paid?”, “mom, how does evaporation work?” “did the dog/kids/cat have his medicine yet?”.
Green slime and dinner time aside, I have decided that, despite my bad feelings for the insecurity implied with such an answer, there is quite a bit of peace and release in the acknowledgement of the unknown sometimes. As moms, we may have the reputation of having all the answers. We seem to be the point person for every detail, small or large pertaining to our homes and kids. Not to mention the emotional support roles we play, knitting together encouraging and hopeful responses to some of life’s harder challenges to those we love.
Sometimes, there are questions and concerns that in truth, we can only guess for and hope for the best. In these cases, an “I don’t know” is the most honest thing we can come up with. There are challenges we can’t put a map or a grid upon to solve immediately.
My dad always has told me, “time will tell.” So while I can’t use this as my answer to “has the dog had his medicine?” I can use this to resolve my anxieties about processes in life, or circumstances with a child. I feel best when I can anticipate the future, and navigate my way out of problems with thoughtful solutions. But there will always be issues to which I just don’t know the answers to, or I can’t foresee the answer right now. It’s okay to not know, and better yet, to lift the speculation and fear that goes with it. In a role with such high expectation for the answers, a mom can find a lot of refuge in some amount of surrender to not always knowing the answers. And if we know one thing from the history of our lives it is that things always have a way of working out.