Mothers have asked since time immemorial “if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you follow?” The implication being that this would, of course, be a bad thing.
Some long ago assembly of official Motherhood coined this little bit of wisdom right after they came up with the all-purpose warning “you’ll poke your eye out!”
The latter being sensible as most anything, if done incorrectly, has the potential to poke your eye out (think about it for a moment and you’ll find I’m right).
The former, however, is confusing. Don’t most of us follow the path that others before us have taken and jump after they jump so to speak?
Education, career, marriage, family – our entire society is built on following the norms.
So would I jump off a bridge if all my friends did? Probably. I suspect it is human nature to want someone else to go first.
Follow the leader. From our doll days, and her willingness to share her best doll – this coveted beauty featuring a head that was interchangeable from blonde to brunette (which is, you must admit, quite a handy trick) – my best friend was my own personal fearless leader.
She was six months older and as a result she did everything first. From dolls through dating then driving, and more.
She almost always leapt first and then dutifully reported back. A roving reporter on the front lines of life. We shared it all and then some.
I even had my first fender-bender with her! She was invaluable in coaching me in just exactly how to speak to the nice officer.
It goes without saying that any friend willing to give you the head off her best doll and help talk your way out of a ticket is a very good friend indeed.
Then this friend took a leap off the highest bridge life has to offer. Leaping headlong into marriage and parenthood while I stayed behind, looking over the rail, cagily gauging the depth of the fall.
Up to that point I had no children and I didn’t understand.
All I knew about children I learned while baby-sitting. Which is like saying I learned how to drive by waxing a car.
Surely nothing is more insufferable than a childless person who thinks they know about parenting.
I gave ridiculous advice and she gave me the benefit of the doubt by not murdering me and making it look like an accident.
Just do it. Watching this friend I learned a little something about jumping off life’s milestone bridges. You really do just have to do it.
Following her lead in both marriage and parenting, I learned too that a career inevitably takes a back seat to parenting and that marriage is infinitely more rewarding, if less effortless, than depicted in the movies.
Watching various friends and family members leap off a variety of life’s bridges into careers, marriages (some that worked, some that didn’t), parenthood and adventures even beyond imagination, I’ve learned immeasurable truths about life.
That it is mysterious, exhilarating, frightening, and only done once as far as we know. Avoidance of any and all scary steps will lead to a safe, but staid, existence indeed.
So as you face the next leap off one of those bridges your mother warned you about – be it education, career, marriage, family, or some life point I have yet to imagine – I would wish you a few friends to follow off life’s little (and larger) cliffs.
I don’t care what your mother said. I for one, am glad to have someone who jumped first. If only to remind me that real babies – unlike doll babies – don’t come with interchangeable heads.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt, and her originally headed babies, thank all the friends who leapt first and answered questions later. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)