Ballet, Cakes and Ants

balletshoesThis morning, I dropped my daughter off at the theater for her ballet dress rehearsal. She just turned six. Costume and all. It’s incredibly cute. And hard to believe for someone who is is flexible like a brick that they have fun doing all this. They do because it’s easy for them.

All other parents seem to know where to go and what to do. That’s another thing that’s not easy for me, knowing what’s going on. Reading all the emails that tell about schedule and room changes is one thing, remembering another. So I am standing here after we’ve rushed from A to B to C, back to B and over to E. I am sweating. We made it, even in time. Everything is okay, but it could have been easier.

Parents are not allowed behind the scenes -I didn’t know – and so I am standing here, waiting and writing this post. I may not publish it. I may change it a hundred times. I may also delete everything I just wrote. But you’ll never notice. That happens behind my scenes.

Ten minutes later, talking to the other parents I realize most of them don’t know what is going on either. One guy admitted he was following me because he thought I looked like I knew where I had to go.
Not sure how he got that impression. It was nice to learn that I am not alone, though. We all struggle. You see it when you get granted a look behind the scenes.

One day years ago, we returned home just to find an entire ant invasion coming through some crack in the wall. They formed a thick black line straight from the crack to a spot in the middle of the living room. That’s where I must have dropped a cake crumble the day before. They were in a straight line! Crack to cake. Those were tiny ants. Imagine ant, less than a 1/10 of an inch (about 2 mm). Distance crack to wall about 15 feet. That’s like if you and your friends managed to find a giant cake within a three mile (5 kilometers) radius in the middle of a deep forest. You also established the shortest distance between the cake and your cabin while bringing pieces back to your cabin. All that without any tools or devices at all!

Incredible, isn’t it?

That is until you see the very first ant. Comes out the crack, zig-zags her way across the tiles like a heavy drunk, then suddenly turns around back into the crack as if she had no business coming this way in the first place. This scene repeats countless times until one lucky insect hits pay dirt (aka cake). What happens next is the amazing part. She traces her way back leaving a scent that says “food this way!”
At this point, every ant will follow the erratic trail towards the cake. And because they are ants, now and then they will suddenly deviate from the trail. They then either get lost until they follow their path back or they hit the cake by accident and leave another marked trail back home. The more ants find the cake, the stronger the signal gets. The shorter the path is, the more ants can bring the loot back. And so over time as long there is cake, they will eventually find the shortest path between the cake and their home.

One mom just came in. She forgot to pick up the dress. Another parent calls in, mixed up the dates. I feel good. I ant-marched my way here. I found my pay-dirt today. Because I showed up.

For the ant colony, every single ant that makes it back is a success because it brings back information of where and where not to find food. Every ant, regardless of how erratic its individual course is, is a hero.

If there is food out there, they will find it.

Even when we feel like morons for not remembering the details, every day we show up, we are heroes. Eventually, we’ll have shown up often enough to feel comfortable being morons. It gets easier over time. In the end, we may even appear like we know what is going on.