A little snippet from Nick Lannon’s incisive new book, Life Is Impossible: And That’s Good News:

I think I first became aware of the impossible in my life—at least aware enough that it kicked off a sort of mini existential crisis—when my wife and I were approaching the birth of our first child. I realized, as the date came closer and closer, that I was becoming more and more nervous and agitated. I’d never been a father before, and I wasn’t sure I could be a good one. In fact, I wasn’t sure what to do at all! The choices seemed endless: cloth diapers or disposable? Jarred food or blend-your-own? Breast milk or formula? Spanking or not? Harvard or Yale?

In all seriousness, though, the decision tree that spread out before me was tremendous—never-ending, actually—and it was stressing me out. It wasn’t until later that I realized what was actually going on. It turned out that I was subconsciously convinced—in a way that I never would have admitted consciously—that if I made all the right choices along that infinite parenting decision tree, that my child would grow up to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the next Oprah Winfrey. You’ll say, of course, that such a thought is ridiculous…and of course you’re right. But we all think this way, all the time. Most of the stress in our lives comes from the fact that we’ve convinced ourselves—often only subconsciously—that the sum of our decision-making will determine how well things turn out for us. Who wouldn’t feel stressed? In that scheme, your happy future depends on every minute-by-minute choice that you make!

What finally gave me some peace, and the ability to approach the birth of our daughter with some mental stability, was the realization that making all the right decisions along the parenting decision tree was impossible. Not difficult, impossible. It wasn’t something that I could buckle down on, or something I could solve with parenting books or daddy blogs…there was no way to make my way through unscathed. No, I had to acknowledge from the very beginning that failure was my sure destination. “Success,” as I had subconsciously defined it, was impossible. Ironically and counterintuitively, it was in admitting failure that I found peace.