Finding a problem where there is no problem

This morning as I drove Leta to school I looked in the rear view mirror to see a somber mood twisting the line of her mouth. It seemed much more sinister than a simple pout, so at a stop light I turned around, touched her leg and asked her if she was okay.

She stuttered. “It’s just… I… it’s hard… I can’t… I mean….”

“It’s okay,” I said. “Take your time. I’d love to know what you’re thinking.”

“I want to tell you, but…” she took a deep breath. “It’s just really hard to explain.”

“Listen, I’m not going to be mad at you, if that’s what you’re worried about. Unless, of course, you burned down a building or robbed a convenience store or maimed a woodland creature.”

“I DIDN’T BURN ANYTHING!” she screamed.

“I’m kidding! Leta, that was a joke. Seriously, take your time. What’s wrong?”

She lifted her head that had been resting on her fist and said, “Remember when I got that certificate that said I was a great swimmer?”

“You mean at the end of camp?”

“Yeah,” she said. “That one.”

“Of course! I was so proud of you!” Is there a stronger word for proud? Delighted? Overjoyed? Considering the progress she made from hating the sight of water to jumping head-first into the deep end, I’d say, indeed, I remember that certificate. If I were still a Mormon it’d be in her scrapbook and not in her box of scraps.

“Yeah, but, remember when I got the certificate that said I was a great reader? The one at the end of first grade?”

“Yes, I remember that one, too.”

“What if I have to choose?”


“What do you mean choose?” I asked, knowing exactly where this was headed. How many times in my life have I manufactured a disaster out of nothing more than a slip of paper and a shoelace?

“I can’t have more than one certificate! I can’t be good at swimming and good at reading! AND I LOVE BOTH OF THEM!”

I let her breathe while I channeled my own mother. My mother who will experience immense pleasure when she reads this. “Did someone tell you that you had to choose?”

“No, but, what if someone finds out I have TWO certificates?”

“If someone finds out you have two certificates they are going to be so impressed. Because you can be good at as many things as you want! You don’t have to choose, not at all. You can earn tons of certificates! You just have to work hard like you did at reading and swimming.”


“Yes, really.”

“Well then, I hope there is a certificate for the monkey bars. I worked really hard at the monkey bars. Also, I want a certificate for pizza because I like it better than anyone else in the world.”