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Oh, how I wish I had some fairy dust.

You know, the kind you can sprinkle all over a bad situation and make things better? The kind that seems to exist in magic kingdoms and fairy tales of my youth, where someone, somewhere would show up and make everything all right?

Life isn’t a fairy tale, though, as we all know. We grow up from having those faraway dreams to realizing how cruel life can be, when things we planned or thought we knew how things would work out don’t happen or don’t come true.

Some of the lyrics to those old Walt Disney movies come to mind. “A dream is a star you can wish on,” or something like that. We put our lost teeth under our pillows and miraculously the tooth disappears, a dollar APPEARS and voila! Our days improved, even though we had gaps in our mouths and spoke with lisps until our adult teeth appeared

As my children have become adults, I have often felt powerless to help them when they’ve faced difficult times. The phone rings. It’s my son or daughter, both of whom are in their forties and have children of their own. Something’s happened to one their houses–a flood, an appliance has broken, a bad snowstorm. The kids are being belligerent and won’t do their work. That’s been a complaint during the pandemic, when school has been virtual, part virtual, part in-person, or even home-schooling.

During those times, I can make suggestions. I can point them to things that have worked for me in the past. I can remind them of disasters that happened to our houses when they were young (such as when our house was being insulated and the insulation contractors put too much into the walls from the outside and blew out the wall in the dining room, filling the dining room with insulation, or when our fully decorated Christmas tree fell down on top of all our gifts). I can also remind them about times when money was scarce and how I had to juggle to keep the bills paid and food on the table. Sometimes that gives them solace, sometimes not.

What I cannot seem to do is find the words when one of them has a personal, internal crisis, one where he or she feels as if life is a failure, that nothing he or she does seems to work out, not matter what he or she does to make it. It’s the Atlas-carrying-the-rock-up-the-proverbial-hill syndrome. I have no solutions, no advice, no nothing except to wonder what happened to the fairy dust I must have somewhere.

Today my daughter received disappointing news that her husband didn’t get a job that they were counting on him to land. This means he may have to take a position in a location they really don’t want to move to. I can’t change this. I can’t find the words to encourage or build her and her family up while they endure this, either.

My son and his family are in the throes of having to deal with their house being rebuilt from the inside, following a burst pipe and an internal flood. They’re living in a hotel with three kids while he and his wife both “work from home,” due to the pandemic.

While these are not dire circumstances when compared to what so many others may be suffering, I think this pandemic has amplified the problems they face. Everyone’s been isolated; we haven’t been able to visit and mingle with the grandchildren for so many months. In my daughter’s case, we haven’t seen her and her family since December 2019.

In many ways, my situation is similar to that of Joe Biden, but on a much smaller scale. He’s been in office for six weeks, and people who supported him during the election want to know why EVERYTHING he discussed during the lead-up to the election hasn’t been accomplished. I think President Biden, too, is searching for fairy dust so that he can please the vast majority of Americans who are looking to him to solve the problems caused by the pandemic, unemployment, climate change and severe weather events, recalcitrant politicians, income inequality, the country’s standing in the world, and on and on. It seems as if people expected those problems to have disappeared by now.

I am thinking of a young elementary school student who was on a Zoom-type class call last week. When the teacher called on her to answer a question, she couldn’t do it. The teacher asked her why, and the student replied, “I’M STARVING! WE HAVE NO FOOD TO EAT!” People in her town stepped forward and got food to her and her single mother, who’s unemployed.

I could do that. I could get food to someone who’s unemployed. I can donate to the food banks and give to people in need. I can get school supplies to children who have none. I can help non-governmental agencies through voluntarism. Yes. I can do that.

But solve my own adult children’s dilemmas? No. I cannot do that.

Not without the help of some magic fairy dust.