Some readers may remember those egg-shaped roly-poly toys from the 1970s called the Weebles. The slogan they used was: “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.”
All these years later, I get it. Adding a few pounds here and there has turned me into something closer to a Weeble, but that’s not what I mean. I get the notion of wobbling. That’s what we do.
Challenges cause us to rock back and forth as we endure losses and defeats.
But, then, much of the time, we don’t fall down. Using material that was more dense at the bottom of the egg-shaped creatures, these Weebles remained upright no matter how many times we flicked our fingers at them.
With humans, however, the mechanism includes the people around us.
I recently attended the bar mitzvah of the son of a great friend from middle school. My friend and I met when we were the same age as our sons. It’s one of the many pause-to-reflect landmarks along the road of life. I remember thinking how incredibly old I’d be in the year 2000. I also remember passing my mother’s age when she gave birth to me even before I met my wife.
Anyway, back at the bar mitzvah, my friend stood with his wife, both beaming as their son sang a text in a language none of them can speak.
These rites of passage aren’t easy. They’re not like getting up in the morning and deciding what clothing to wear at the last minute. They take months to plan, involve commitment and sometimes seem so far away that they are a distant dot on an unimaginable horizon.
And then, all of a sudden, the future is now. There we are, moving into a new role, cheering on our children or, in my case, the son of my friend.
Those years weren’t always easy. There isn’t a parenting playbook we can consult on Page 9 when a child can’t fall asleep or Page 15 when a child suddenly can’t keep any food down. Yes, of course, there are books on parenting that offer just that kind of advice, but there’s always an added curve. We also make our own playbook as we go, combining lessons each set of grandparents taught us.
One such curve hit us during the delivery of our daughter. We had taken several Lamaze classes. None of them, however, prepared us for the hours of attempting to deliver our daughter, followed by what now feels like the inevitable decision to perform a C-section.
My friend gave an emotional speech about his son, sharing the moments of triumph along with some of the unexpected tribulations. As he told the stories about those early years, I remember talking with him over the phone, hearing his voice weakened by fatigue and worry, unsure of the next steps he’d need to take to help his son grow and develop into the young man he would become.
My friend was wobbling. He, his wife and their son got through some of those early difficulties, thanks to the support of the people who were there celebrating this milestone.
These big moments are a wonderful opportunity for us to recognize the life landmarks with the people who have kept us from falling down. They could include everyone from our parents to our neighbors and friends to the teacher who saw the best in our children, even when our children’s confidence was flagging and they felt like anything but The Little Engine That Could. They are also a chance to take stock of the support networks that enable us Weebles to head to the next celebration of life.