Embracing Our Yet

     2017 was a rough season for my daughter’s community basketball team. This was her first (and last) year playing with the Leopards. Her team had lost every game and, mercifully, this was the final game of the season.

Ever the supportive parents, my husband and I cheered from the sidelines, as my (then 9-year-old) dribbled the bright orange basketball down the court. I held my breath as it soared in slow motion from her fingertips. Wide-eyed I watched the ball float through the air…and miraculously swish into the basket. I felt my body swell with parental pride. The sting of every loss from that miserable season had been washed away in that moment.

But as the cheers erupted from the opposite side of the court, a sinking feeling set in. In a tangle of enthusiasm and confusion, my daughter had run in the wrong direction and scored 3 points for the opposing team.

The season concluded with zero wins. All losses. The car door had barely closed when the tears started to flow, and the pep talk began. “It’s okay,” I hugged her tight. “You’ll get better. Keep practicing. Keep trying. You just haven’t mastered basketball…yet.”

 

Ideas for stories can spark from life moments like this. Conversations, conflicts, questions, and concerns become the seeds of inspiration, and this difficult day was the one that grew into my picture book, The Magical Yet.

When children fall off their bike, fumble the football or bomb a quiz at school we adults are quick to tell them to remain determined and keep going. After all, practice makes perfect. But do we echo that message of perseverance in ourselves?

I have found that many adults measure and define themselves based on their accomplishments, oftentimes through accolades, awards and recognition. Sure, we want acknowledgments for the achievements of our past, but more possibilities, magical possibilities, still await…in our YET.

As I began writing the manuscript for The Magical Yet, I quickly realized that this story was not only for my 9-year-old daughter, but an affirmation for 40-something year-old me, as well. It became a message of hope, determination, and reassurance and a reminder that there is a place—a better state of mind—that lies beyond struggle, disappointment and loss. I wondered: if we adults encourage ourselves much in the same way we support our children, perhaps we can recognize that our failures, mistakes, and missteps are an essential part of our continued learning.

 

When one of my books is published and released, I never know how it will be received. Some titles soar with starred reviews, while others toddle with a trickle of sales, but the experience of creating something new to share with young readers is one of the most valuable rewards of the process…not to mention what I learn about myself along the way.

I have been thrilled to see how The Magical Yet has resonated so deeply with children, parents and educators, since its release just over a year ago. Of course, at the time, I had no idea just how much us adults would all need to lean on our magical Yets, too.

 

In the past 18 months, we’ve all had more than our share of difficulties—days when we couldn’t see our family and friends in person, take off our masks, return to school or say goodbye to loved ones. The truth is, we just weren’t able to return to those things…yet.

Now, as we emerge from these most challenging times, I reflect on how those days in quarantine seemed endless, even though I knew we’d return to some form of normalcy once again. My magical Yet is what kept me going, even when despair lurked about in every news article that I read.

However, while I—like so many—waited for a “light at the end of the tunnel”, my time in quarantine offered moments to reflect on what I cherished, missed or yearned to experience in a post-Covid world. I also found myself open to trying new experiences. Baking sourdough, learning to play the ukulele, and nurturing houseplants offered the joy of new experiences. And though I have not mastered any of these skills yet, it was discovering an unknown skill that was exciting. Along with the burnt loaves, cringeworthy chords and wilted leaves, my magical Yet remained loyally beside me.

 

As my family comes out of our home to re-enter school, work, and our community, I wonder: If I can master baking sourdough, what else am I capable of? Better yet: if we, as a society, can acknowledge and learn from our mistakes what could we accomplish? Like this pandemic, we face foreboding global obstacles in the years to come but maybe…just maybe…we can find solutions if we keep trying.

In our lives, we are offered countless opportunities to try and fail, to run and walk, hold the ball or shoot, but only giving up has finality. The magic, the journey and the reward lies in our magical YET.