The Sand Trap / by Susie Lubell

Sand

My kids went to the beach with my husband this weekend to see their aunt and get out of my hair during my THREE HOUR QUICK BOOKS PARTY with my new bookkeeper. At one point before they left my husband came in to remark that all the laughing was making him wonder if we were really doing accounting.

They came home very late that evening after what appears to have been a terrific day, the highlight of which was a trip to the ocean. It's been pretty stormy over here the last two weeks so apparently the little beach near where my husband's aunt lives (and my brother too, when he's not dog whispering in Mexico) has had it's share of churn which meant my kids got to collect whatever finally landed on the beach.  Mainly neat looking rocks and shells (and one nasty looking piece of kelp).

So they brought their treasures home in bags and I found little clear containers in which to display them. Over the last two days they've showed me each and every item at least five times. Seeing them in the jars got me thinking about the story that apparently has been circulating the web and elsewhere, but I'd never heard it. And it goes like this:

A professor of philosophy stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was full.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full. They chuckled and agreed that it was indeed full this time.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions.


And the moral of the story is not to put the rocks in first so you can pack in as much other crap as possible and still have time in the day to be on Facebook. The moral, the one I'm going with anyway, is to figure out what the rocks are and put them in first because if you put the sandy filler in first, there's no room for the rocks.

Unfortunately this only came to mind AFTER I had a huge blow out with my son about the damn pebbles and shells. I should have just agreed to help him put the ones he'd shown me back in the jar (after he showed them to me for the sixth time) because in the scheme of things, his momentary laziness was nothing cataclysmic. You have to help because I was showing them to YOU. Although it was only two days ago that I was sitting with my bookkeeper (who has teenagers) talking about how hard it is to raise grateful, humble, appreciative, hard working kids when you're not in poverty. The entitlement thing is on my mind a lot. So I couldn't let this argument drop. And he persisted, as is his way. And I held my ground, as is mine. And it didn't end well. Actually, if finally ended with everyone hugging and exchanging I love yous but there were a lot of tears and shrieking before we got there. And there was no dessert which, for my son, actually is cataclysmic. See what I mean about entitlement? And the thing is I push him on these things, especially lately, because he's actually showing signs of getting it. But then this happens and I wished I'd just given in or found some more creative way to diffuse the situation.

Like I should have dumped the rest of the shells and sand on his head and then offered to help clean up. I'm sure there will be a next time.