‘Follow your heart’ is bad advice

Categorized as 11/02/09 Goshen News column

In the Good Parents handbook, there is a list of phrases that have been used by mothers and fathers since time immemorial.

Stop making that face or it will freeze that way. Do you know how many children in Africa would love to have those vegetables? Get your elbows off the table. Don’t burp with your mouth open. You can be whatever you want to be. Follow your heart.

It’s that last one that seems iffy to me. Call me a pessimist, a “glass-half-empty” girl, but I can’t help thinking about how aggravating it can be when people actually follow that advice.

Take what happened the other day. I was washing my hair and went to squeeze some shampoo from the bottle and – nothing. Puzzled, I unscrewed the lid to see if there was a blockage. Oh, there was a blockage, alright. As in a little square of Saran wrap.

Suspicious now, I checked the conditioner. Sure enough. Another little square. Clearly, a very local prankster had followed his heart, resulting in fresh aggravation for his mother.

When a family friend heard about it, she said, “Hmm. I think these young-uns are a chip off the old block – the block called ‘Grandpa Yoder.’”

Believing the scriptural principle that the sins of the fathers are visited to the third and fourth generation, this was not good news. It was hardly surprising, though, in light of my father’s history. Why, just this summer while in the hospital, he followed his heart and left a hairy tarantula under the covers for the nurses, one of whom nearly got her own hospital admission.

Thanks a lot, Dad. Now we’re dealing with some generational issues because you keep following your heart.

The bathroom mirror last week is just another case in point. Little Schrock, who could sweep the Baby Olympics in the cabinet climbing contest, followed his own tiny heart and finger painted the mirror. Copiously. With liquid soap.

His father, feeling in his heart that clean-up duty was on my to-do list, had a sudden change of you-know-what when he heard about my day and graciously cleaned it up himself. Thanks, hon. Now there’s a generational pattern that should definitely be passed down.

It’s funny. When the shoe is on the other foot, it pinches. In other words, if Mom follows her heart, it’s a real drag and a trial and it steals their joy. Sunday afternoons are a prime example.

Figuring that the Lord meant for moms to be included when he set aside the Sabbath as a day of rest, we established a tradition years ago. Mom gets a break from dishwashing so she can have a nap. Hence, all family members between the ages of, say, 8 and 20 are expected to dispatch the dishes in a quiet and expeditious manner. Then, all scholars large and small are to tiptoe away, spending the rest of the afternoon in quiet pursuits such as homework and reading.

If you find that perfect world in which such utopia exists, dial me up, okay? Because that’s not the scene I woke up to on a recent Sunday afternoon.

Something was rotten in Denmark. The dishes were still in the drainer, and the homework was untouched.

It took awhile, but as moms always do, I got to the bottom of it. Here’s what happened.

While supposedly working, the washer happened to glance out the window and see “a real cool-looking squirrel, Mom. It had a real short tail.” From his post in the back room (where the sink and dishes did not happen to be), he noted that the “cool-looking” squirrel was burying its nuts in the backyard.

Thinking it would be all kinds of fun to mess with the squirrel’s mind by digging up its carefully concealed nuts and moving them, he suggested as much to his little brother and fellow henchman. Together, they followed their hearts into the back yard where they searched in vain for the hidden stash.

Mid search, it dawned on the instigator that it was quite windy. Which naturally means it’s what? Perfect kite-flying weather, of course.

Thus, while the dryer ambled back inside to resume his work, the washer dug his kite out of the basement and spent some carefree moments in happy abandon, homework lying idle in his bag.

Finally tiring of this activity, he appeared in the kitchen, surprising his co-conspirator who thought that he’d been upstairs all along. Thus followed a lengthy conversation that went something like, “How did you get outside? Did you go out a window?” “No. Don’t you know this house has secret passages? I wasn’t supposed to know about it, either, but I found it by accident when I was cleaning once.” And that’s about where things were at when I got up from my nap.

Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. My heart is telling me to head for the Main Street Coffee House with a pillow, a blanket, and a change of clothes. I think I’ll follow it for once if someone could just call ahead and tell them I’m coming.

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