Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Que Sera, Sera

Doris Day is probably more famous for her recording of the song “Que Sera, Sera” than she is for anything else she did in her long and illustrious career. And why not? It’s a lovely and unusual song. How many other popular songs are about talking to your mother about what you want to be when you grow up? Not very many, that’s for certain.

In case you happen to be the one person in America who is not familiar with this song, let me share some of the lyrics: When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, “What will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?” Here’s what she said to me: “Que sera, sera: whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see, que sera, sera. What will be, will be.” Other verses go on to see the girl falling in love and asking her sweetheart if their future will be perfect, and then her children asking her the same question she asked her own mother, with the same response.

My children aren’t quite old enough yet to ask that question, but I often wonder it on their behalf. Will my son be an athlete? Will he be tall? (OK, that one I actually do know the answer to – that would be a resounding “yes!”) Will he be musical? Will he be into computers or cooking or cars? Will his hair lose its curl and darken up? Will he have a whole series of girlfriends or just one or two long, serious relationships? And what about my daughter? Will her hair always be that baby buttery blond? Will it gain some wave in a few years? Will she be tall and straight like me, her older sister, and my mother-in-law or shorter and curvier like my mom, my sister, and my sister-in-law? Will she be a gymnast or a chess whiz? Will she be a poet or a field hockey player? Will she be a social butterfly? Will she be a scholar? Will my husband and I totally hate her first serious boyfriend? Will she want to pierce some strange body part or get a tattoo?

And the only answer I can give myself is, “Que sera, sera”: What will be, will be. I can guide them toward making wise decisions and taking advantage of opportunities, but they will be what they will be. I can’t force either one of them to love reading or football or French. I can make them do their homework but I can’t make them love it. I can require them to take piano lessons and practice but I can’t make them be good at it or enjoy it. I can feed them healthy foods, encourage them to exercise, teach them self-discipline, and give them lots of opportunities to try new things, but I can’t change their basic builds or personalities. I can support them and cheer them on, but I can’t change who they are. Nor would I want to.  I love who they are, and I will love whomever they become as adults.

That’s not to say I expect to agree with or love all their choices, or even be proud of those choices. But even when my heart is breaking, I will accept who they are and what they choose to do. I think of a scene from “Fiddler on the Roof”, when Tevye’s daughter Hodel is taking the train to Siberia to marry the scholar, Perchik. She says to Tevye, “God alone knows when we shall see each other again.” Tevye replies, “And we will leave it in His hands.”

Not such a bad way to look at it, that.

Que sera, sera.

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