Sunday, May 15, 2011
My husband took Sis to her first tee-ball practice. Mister went along with his mitt. That left Peanut and I home alone in the first of the much delayed Spring sunshine. We abandoned four loads of unfolded clean laundry and a sink full of dishes for the trampoline and the slanting sunlight of the backyard. We jumped and jumped, facing each other holding hands. “Dis is fun! Dis is so fun!” she kept saying. I agreed, my heart full and at peace with this third baby, both of us freed from the energetic tangles of sibling competition.
When we tired, we flopped on our backs. I closed my gritty eyeballs and pretended to sleep. Peanut poked me in the eye.
“Det dat moon for me,” she sweetly bossed. I squinted, finally making out the faint outline of the moon in the bright blue sky.
“It’s pretty high, Baby.” I said.
“Just jump for me,” she bossed again, tilting her head slightly for effect.
I got up. Jumped. Reached. Jumped again.
“Need a stool?” She asked.
“I don’t think so, Baby.” The moon is really high.”
“I do it myself,” she said without contempt and started bouncing, the chubby dimples of her ankles peeking out from under her skirt. After a few attempts, she conceded. “That’s okay,” she said. “Buzz Lightyear det it dat moon for me. Buzz Lightyear det it dat moon for me two hours.” She held up five fingers to confirm the math. “Jessie says yee-haw, yur my best friend.”
I love this baby. She fancies herself capable of anything. For a long time, she would tell people in earnest that she was four years old like her brother. I love to watch her mind work, surveying the processes of her often ill-conceived attempts to solve toddler problems, mostly organized around themes of height and strength, always focused on reaching things that need not be reached. The other day I pretended not look at she strained to flip the light switch that the big kids has expressly told her not to touch. They were huddled in piles of blankets pretending to sleep in preparation for the big move to a new orphanage or resting up after a long day of swimming as dolphins at a zoo where they feed the animals ice cream.
Since they wanted the lights off, she wanted the lights on. She reached and reached. And when she was sure she could not make due on tiptoe she began looking for something to stand on. I watched as she hunted around, finally decided on a single sheet of notebook paper. She laid it down carefully and stepped on it confidently with both feet, reaching again. Next she tried a pillow. Then an empty laundry basket. “Turn the basket over,” I suggested, feeling a need to reward her efforts even while incurring the wrath of the fake-sleeping eldest.
It worked. She turned the lights on and quickly spun around to defend her decision with a piercing scream and her teeth, if need be. The big kids decided it was time to get up anyway and take the train to Alaska. Since she can never be wrong, Sis thanked Peanut for turning the lights on. So Peanut whipped around and turned them back off.
I turned away to hide a smile and prayed – that as this baby grows, the laws of physics and mathematics will not hamper her spirit. I pray that the distance to the dreams that grow in her heart seem travelable with grace, patience and grit. And I pray that she learns to listen to her Heavenly Father if not her Mama, who longs to shower her with good and perfect gifts well beyond the reach of her imagination.
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)
Saturday, May 14, 2011
The generally disagreeable toddler has been speaking to my heart this week through her unprecedented enthusiasm for obedience. And her timing is interesting. My husband and I are preparing to travel to Rwanda this summer for a few weeks to meet with both victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide. Although I have been making physical arrangements (childcare, shots, walking shoes), I have been purposefully reluctant to open my heart to any emotional or spiritual preparation. A stack of books has been collecting dust. The documentary from Netflix unopened for months.
I know enough about what happened in Rwanda to be terrified of learning more. Like Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, I want my heart to be broken by the things that break the heart of God. But unlike Pierce, I want to survive the crushing weight of sharing in the suffering of others.
Finally last weekend, we watched the first documentary on our list. Tears pooled under my chin to drip onto my shirt. I kept telling God over and over that I did not want to go after all. “I cannot bear this witness. I can offer nothing. I cannot even look.”
Monday I sent out an e-mail to a circle of friends who I knew would pray for me. Later that same day, Peanut, who spends an inordinate amount of time on her bed for talking back and saying no, adopted an all-together new go-to phrase. For a full week now, invitations to get a diaper change or clean up toys has been met with, “Okay. Let’s do it.” And where I used to carry her under my arm like a football, kicking at the family photos in the hallway, lately she has reached an eager hand up to mine.
So we have been walking quietly together. To her bedroom. Around Wal-Mart. Through the elementary school parking lot. And as usual, it seems to me that answered prayer is coming by way of the little people in my life.
So, I say, trembling but somewhat quieted, “Let’s do it.” And I reach up my little hand into a strong and warm palm.
“The Lord is my shepherd . . . he leads me . . .” Psalm 23:1-2
Mister has taken an interest lately in the myriad career options available to someone of his amazing and diverse skill set. It started at the dentist a few months ago. He gave the hygienist the stink-eye as she reclined the chair and propped his knobby knees up under a pillow. He folded his arms and looked away when she asked him his name. But as soon as she was gone he turned to me and said, “When I grow up, I want to be a dentist.” I agreed that he would be a fantastic dentist, with his attention to detail and mechanical interests. I made a big deal of his announcement and asked him to repeat it at the dinner table for Dad.
Soon the career options began rolling out of his vivid imagination. Each day brought exposure to new people who do interesting things for work. Mr. Dave came and spent a few weeks tearing out gold-foil linoleum and installing new toilets. Mister decided he would build his own house. The Easter bunny delivered a train conductor suit. Cranes and bulldozers broke ground around the corner. The baby got an ear infection. Conductor, construction worker, doctor – the list of careers grew.
Some of the career choice announcements have had awkward timing. I took Mister with me to present at a conference. We drove with my colleague in his hybrid Honda, drinking tea from recycled plastic tumblers. As we talked about my colleague’s decision to become a vegetarian out of a need to align his academic interests in eco-criticism with his family’s carbon footprint Mister piped up from the back. “When I grow up I am going to buy a canon so I can kill some animals. I think we should kill a dad chicken and a mom chicken and a pig. And then we should eat them.” Gulp.
After a trip to the zoo he decided he wanted to grow up to be a cheetah. And a mama lion.
I love the flexibility of his mind. I love that he does not know that his choices (cheetah excluded) have competing academic programs that force young people into rigid, debt-loaded tracks. I love that he sees himself as smart and capable with hands that are ready to build. But the richness of his imagination is made even sweeter by the reality that I share the dreams of this precious son with another mother. Every time he adds a new job to his list of options I think of her and the short conversation we had almost three years ago next to the window that framed dilapidated shanties and shoeless children under a raw sun. I had asked her what she dreamed for this son and her answer was immediate and simple. “I want him to grow up to know God, get an education and do good and important work.” I had nodded and promised to do my best to feed his heart by a steady diet of prayer and opportunity.
And so when he began dreaming for himself about his future, I looked back. And prayed, asking God to whisper into her ear about the colors and textures of the dreams she first placed in his heart.
I tell him that I am proud of him.
I tell him he is able.
I tell him I love to hear about his plans.
And the other day, at a stop light, I turned around and told him that his beautiful dreams make his first mother proud too. “Yah,” he said quietly, tipping his chin up proudly as he turned to look out the window at a fire truck driving by.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11