I just saw Matt Damon in the film “The Martian” and it made a big impact on me. (No, I’m not going to spoil the movie … but you SHOULD see it.) I will tell you that it has to do with surviving out in space, but I’m pretty sure you can figure that out from the poster with the message, “Bring Him Home” plastered over an astronaut’s face.
Here’s what I took away from the movie: you never know where you are going to end up, how you will survive, or what you will have at your disposal. At some point in your life, you will have to think like MacGyver: you will have a rubber band, a Juicy Juice straw, and a crushed up band-aid at the bottom of your diaper bag. And you will think, with confidence, “I can probably build a tent for us to survive until help arrives.”
In my case, it wasn’t a crushed up band-aid. We all learn things in crappy circumstances growing up. Stuff you don’t really want to remember. I had no idea how useful that knowledge could be in my job as a parent. How did my trouble fitting in at school help me relate to my tween as he was struggling “with … everything”? When I was seven, I spent the whole summer on my own learning how to tie different knots. How did that knowledge suddenly save the day when we went camping with our kids, keeping the tent from flying off in near-tornado conditions?
You never know where the parts of your life that you want to forget — the chapters that you would delete from the edited version of your autobiography — can be really useful in your quest to parent. It’s like Doc Brown coming back from the future to use garbage to fuel the DeLorean at the end of the movie, “Back to the Future.” Who ever thought this stuff would be useful!
So before you box up and try to forget all those experiences that you consider “epic fails” in your life, remember that you might end up on a distant planet alone one day and need to call on everything you ever learned to survive. Or maybe just to get through a trip to the mall with your kids.