We’re just entering the Year of 3 with Miss C. She has always carried with her a different spirit, one with a bit more spark – sometimes more of a downright roaring blaze. She’s fearless. Just after turning 2 she was the first of our children jumping in the pool, going down a slide into the lake and wanting to go tubing. I think she a little bit believes she’s invincible. Which is beautiful and a lot of fun when you’re not parenting it.
On her third birthday we went to the zoo with every other person in the state of Ohio because of the Summer Polar Vortex. Each time we arrived at an exhibit, someone asked, “Who has C?” She wasn’t purposefully trying to evade us, she was simply following her nose, heart or curiosity toward something we had missed. Like the fence she started climbing.
My cousin once told me that the Year of 3 was “maddening yet magical.” I have a feeling we’re going to experience a greater distance between those poles this year.
The other day, JJ asked for the 586th time, “Where is C?” only to find she was in the garden, picking onions. She had saw me making dinner and assumed I would be in need. With my lackluster gardening skills, onions are the only vegetable we manage to keep all season long (which comes in quite handy because on a daily basis my family consumes no less than one onion and one clove of garlic, which is why we have so few friends). However, this particular day I was not in need.
We gave her stern words for picking onions when we didn’t ask her to. We preserve these precious bulbs and, as par for the course nowadays, shook our heads at the ways in which this little girl seems to do whatever she wants. How do we stop her from running off and doing things like this? we wonder. How do we get her to understand the rules apply to her?
This morning I was praying for her, for her spirit, and those damn onions came to mind. She was giving us an offering of her love. She wanted to be helpful when she saw the cutting board. We missed it in an effort to preserve our garden. How much more do we miss as the prize of this spirited girl because we want something easier to parent. We know she’s not defiant, simply obstinate.
This girl doesn’t easily bend to requests when they go against her ideals. (What are her ideals? We’re not sure. She’s three. But we’re positive they’re in there.) You cannot control her with punishment nor bribery, though she loves the work of making others happy. She genuinely seeks to please, but on her own terms.
The practical parent in me screams in agony. Everything in me wants to rail against this and keep her safe. We could break this spirit we can keep her safe from the world. Safe from the scrapes and bruises of her attempts. Safe from her failures, because she seems to approach challenges that are catastrophically bigger in size and scope than her siblings ever did, and it scares the bejebus out of me.
But for the good of the world, we cannot.
We cannot quench this spirit. It takes someone with this kind of fearless spirit to stand up for the bullied student when the rest of the class points and laughs. It takes this ferocity to believe we can change things like homelessness or human trafficking or cycles of drug abuse and poverty and actually begin to do something about it. Her belief that she is bigger than whatever might bring her down is what will make a person of action. That fire we wish to stifle is what will bring light into this dark world.
Parenting is hard. God gave such precious, unique, beautiful souls and we’re figuring out how to help them glow while simultaneously stopping them from self-destruction. God help us to fan the flame while not loosing our minds or breaking our hearts.
A little red tape player and MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This made the trip to Detroit fly by. I’m pretty sure we played the song 842 times as Tim attempted to rap Hammer, go Hammer, MC Hammer, yo Hammer And the rest can go and play. We turned the middle seats to face the back in the old yellow and brown striped van (because it was the 80s and legal) and Kimmy gave fashion advice to the 16-year-old boys such as “tie your shoes” because it was “out” to wear the big sneakers so unkept. My 9-year-old self made a mental note to not have a crush on a boy making such a fashion faux pas. We arrived at the hotel where we were staying before watching Sam’s Brother Cy and we all went for a swim. Brian tried to teach me how to go under the water without holding my nose. Grandpa Bill bought pizza. That night we filed into the stadium seats to watch the race. I can’t remember if he won or lost, but I distinctly recall how Rebecca held her race program on her lap and it caught a huge blob of bird poop.
This week my sister and I held our first ever Cousin Swap, exchanging H Boy for her 4 year old daughter. We’ve kept the girls busy playing dolls, riding bikes and making visits to the museum. The boys haven’t stopped playing ball or throwing swords since they arrived at my sister’s home. Chad is pretty sure they’ll go through a withdrawal. Though my sister and I live 3 hours apart, not a brief 20 minute ride from family like I grew up with, we’re still trying to make a priority of our kids’ Cousin Time. Sometimes, it’s a lot of work. But I cannot imagine my life without the relationships I have with these lifetime friends.
In another year, we’ll move from our Overfield friends to our elementary school friends. And then comes middle and high school where things are sure to change and evolve. Hopefully my kids each have a taste of the beautiful and lasting friendships that come with the college years I experienced, but people scatter with time. But to H-boy, Jack will be at every Christmas, Easter, summer at the lake, and winter trip to Great Wolf Lodge.
This will be the boy who loves my son, even when he’s a punk. Perhaps, like my cousins, they will wear a tux up front at each other’s wedding and – God forbid it happens anytime soon – march one behind the other, carrying a grandparent to their final resting place. These boys and girls will weave their way through life together, leaning on one another like siblings but with the refreshing enjoyment of friendship.
When life hits the rocks, or a marriage, these will be the ones showing up to testify in court. When new opportunity arises, they pick up the heavy boxes. When your first baby ends up at Children’s hospital, they become the first and the last visitors, making sure you have everything you need from a hug to a good probiotic.
Perhaps someday they’ll book flights to Vegas to celebrate as 3 of them turn 40 or several of them hit milestone anniversaries. They can congregate at the pool while a generous uncle buys drinks and simply enjoy being together. They’ll laugh and laugh (and then one of them will get “her laugh” going and make everyone smack their legs because oh, that laugh). Maybe they’ll even load up their children to head to the races for the weekend. They’ll jump in the swimming pool or sit alongside with a beverage in hand. They’ll hope to get their picture taken in the winner’s circle with a happy grandpa. And one of them will remember to tell the story about the time they were in the van on the way to the races with her cousins.
I cannot tell you how many times in the past 5 years I realized everything in my life is more a result of where I come from and the safety nets associated with my upbringing, as opposed to the results of my own good works.
Sure, I’m bright enough to do well in school, but it didn’t earn me enough to pay for my schooling – my father did that.
I’m a hard worker – I like to get things done. But honestly, I’m scared of ladders. Even corporate ones.
We take chances on investments but that’s because we have access to means to make the gamble.
We already had one foot in the race when we started this thing called life. Generations that passed us the baton ran hard, getting far enough ahead in a race we had no idea we were running, starting from birth.
I believe 2 kinds of words to be detrimentally dangerous to humankind: Always/Never language and Us/Them differentiation. It’s not They, Those people. Because so often, they are just like us. More so than we would like to admit. They simply might not have the same roots holding them up when things get hard.