You never know if Plan B might become Plan A

You never know if Plan B might become Plan A

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.

It happened only once.

For years my therapist, Max, came to my home to stretch and massage my legs and back with a special ointment that both soothed and energized.

His treatments helped invigorate my paralyzed legs while relaxing my overused shoulders and back.

But at one recent session, Max forgot his special ointment. He borrowed hand lotion from me, but it was not the same.

On the next visit, he brought a small ointment-filled container. “Where can we put this in case I forget again?” he asked.

I smiled at his thoughtful approach. “So, is that your Plan B, Max?” I teased him.

He grinned back and nodded. “Yes, I guess it is.”

And we found a place on a bookshelf, behind a favorite coffee mug.

At each session, I noticed that Max always retrieved the back-up container, used it and replaced it with another.

“Why do you always use the back-up,” I asked him.

“I don’t want it to become stale,” he replied.

“So, you’re keeping your Plan B fresh?”

He chuckled, nodding in agreement.

Fresh Plan B’s. That’s a good strategy beyond the shelf life of a massage cream. In fact, it is the season of Fresh Plan B’s. Acceptance and rejection letters usher squeals of delight or devastation. Fresh Plan B’s are a necessity.

Whether applying for college or kindergarten, March Madness memories extend beyond the basketball court and into spring. Logic often eludes both arenas when outcomes don’t match the talent, experiences and preparation of the individuals.

And we’re perplexed—perhaps even angry.

For the college-bound, high school counselors educate us early on the value of “reach” schools and “safe” schools. Yet we hope for this moment in our children’s lives that their reach will be within their grasp.

We’ve ridden shotgun on their journey, challenging them to develop their potential wherever it may be.

But we’ve also encouraged them to find their passions — those things that interest, excite and stimulate the essence of who they are.

We pushed when we thought we should push, supported when we thought we should support and prayed that we had the wisdom to know the difference.

But that junior year comes, and with it all the preparation trappings for one of the most important launches in our parenting careers. We weather campus visits, interviews, essays and applications designed to reveal options for this important next step.

During one college visit years ago, an admissions adviser suggested that the school did not want “well-rounded” students. They sought the “well-angled” students with unique intense experiences. Leadership outranked being a “serial joiner.” Depth of experience, it appeared, was more important than breadth.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Interests focused too sharply and too soon can lead to narrow-minded perspectives, void of empathy. Limited experiences sometimes shut down future possibilities.

Granted, we want our kids to learn and experience the goal-oriented lessons where hard work and preparation pay off.

And then that life-altering envelope comes — with the wrong response. And we, too, are devastated. We are not ready for our child to learn that lesson yet.

Life’s logic baffles us, throwing us into that awkward but far too often experience of helping our child through a situation we, too, do not understand.

Yet, it can be a fine moment for teaching. Our response may become their blueprint.

Fresh Plan B’s can help.

Well-examined alternatives, ripe with timely possibilities, can both soothe and stimulate as we teach (and learn) to meet life’s challenges head on.

We can’t afford for our back-up plans to become stale.