A holiday wish: be mindful of tense

This week, I listened to an expert on, of all things, grammar. A teacher named Phuc Tran gave a TED talk on the use of the subjunctive in the English language, and spoke to the power of using the subjunctive tense -- to the implications of should, could and would. This meaningful tense allows us to dream big, to be optimistic, to imagine and to wonder what if. But it also allows us to wallow, to regret, to ponder what we should, could or would have done. While we all cherish and need our reflective capacities, our lives as New York City parents are way too full of wondering and often worrying about the choices we are making, the potential outcomes and the many influences on our children. And, there is no shortage of books, magazine articles and social media to nag us lest we forget to wonder and worry.

Yet Tran also spoke to the powerful use of the indicative, the present tense which enables us to talk about the here and now, to say “try it anyway” or “I want a hug” or “I want to enjoy this chocolate," and which gives us the phrases to act, reach out, love, laugh and do. Tran reminds us: “We all use the subjunctive and the indicative every day, and we can be mindful of when we are blinded by the subjunctive and overlooking the indicative around us.”

So this holiday season, I wish that we all have more moments in the indicative tense, in being here and now and doing and making, and in acting upon the urgency of the present that makes us better parents, educators and people each day.

Posted on December 19, 2013 .