Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waking with Kisses

We slept in on Sunday. It had been a cool, fresh night Saturday night and we had opened the windows, inviting the crisp air in, along with the sounds that fill a rural night: crickets, bull frogs, the occasional loon call and the cracking of twigs under the feet of night prowling animals. In short, it was heaven. We slept soundly like we were creatures who belonged to the woods. 

The sun was streaming through the windows when I got up and stretched. A moment later I realized the sun was higher in the sky than it normally is when I get out of bed. We were late for our Sunday morning ritual of coffees and breakfast sandwiches at Panera before church. Over-sleeping is not a common phenomenon for my family. Twila is every bit as much a morning person as Ryan and I and Jada—well she’s a night owl but she’s still so young she’s up by seven almost invariably. 

So when I realized it was almost eight, I had to shake the delirium from my head to remember where I was. I threw some clothes on and started washing my face and brushing my teeth. Usually this action alone is enough to wake the whole house, but today Ryan was the only one to get up. Soon we were both ready to go. Without saying it out loud we’d decided to get as ready as possible without the girls. As I said, they don’t sleep in often (I can’t remember actually having to wake them up even once in the last two years) and neither of us had the heart to disturb them. 

I woke up my sister who had babysat the night before and slept over. I picked out clothes for the girls and set them in stacks next to their sleeping bodies. I walked the dog, put him in his kennel, loaded the car and took my vitamins. The girls slept on.

Finally there was nothing to do but to wake them. I sat quietly on the edge of Jada’s bed. I stroked her hair. No movement. I leaned in close and let my nose brush the skin of her cheek. Her muscles twitched. I kissed her forehead softly. Jada’s eyes flashed open and she smiled. Then her eyes shut heavily once more. I kissed the soft part of her neck, her ear, her cheek. Her eyes stayed shut but she smiled. A couple of kisses later she reached her arms out and wrapped them around my neck. Then, before she opened her eyes, she kissed my nose. 

As Ryan started helping Jada get dressed, I went to Twila’s bed and repeated the same process of kissing each of her facial features. Her eyes blinked open and simultaneously she asked, “Mom, today after church can we go in the lake so I can show you how I back float?” I laughed because her brain starts working like this every single morning: even before her body starts moving. 

I’ve been reading about simplicity parenting lately. Generally, its’ about the “disease” of too much. Too much stuff, too much information, too many choices and too much speed. Most of the book has me nodding along fervently (challenged but also validated for many of the choices we’ve already made for our children). Of course there are many areas to improve on but the one topic that has me feeling most convicted, as a modern mother seeking balance in this modern American culture, is the pitfall of moving too fast in a too-fast world.

The Author, Kim John Payne, points out how our own awareness of life moving too fast actually makes things worse because we still buy into the necessity of rushing, cramming many activities into our day even though we feel an anxiety about it. The problem is we pass on that anxiety and the helplessness of being dragged along by life, to our children.

“Is there anything that we don’t feel the need to rush?” Payne asks. I am challenged by this sentiment because I, maybe more than most, have a tendency to rush. No, not just rush, to fly from one thing to the next. I have always prided myself on being productive. But at what cost?

It’s not a new question. You may have noticed it’s a challenge I’ve presented to myself nearly every week: “What am I giving up by moving so fast, finishing so much? Certainly fun, and my own personal involvement in my kids moment by moment inspirations. But what I haven’t considered is that this tendency may harm my children more than I realize. 

If we instill values in our children each moment that we interact with them, what values am I instilling by rushing us from the store, to the library, to the post office, back to the house to let the dog out, eat lunch and get naps in so that there is enough time to clean up and have a snack before the sitter comes; at which time I will rush out the door to run my own errands? 

Jack Petrash, author of Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out, describes a revelation he had about his students on a sunny day out on the play ground, “In some amazing way, each individual ray of light conveys the sun. In the same way, each individual child [bears] the image of the divine.”
If we can think like this about our children, even part of the time, it’s not so hard to slow down. Even a busy body like myself can stop, sit, be still and listen when I realize the truth about my children: that when I am with them, I am in the presence of the divine. 

I’ve been looking for it more lately. So it wasn’t hard to see when we were late for church on Sunday morning. When I saw my sleeping angels, faces so peaceful and breath so calm, I was faced with a choice: wake them up with hurried whispers, tapping foot while I rushed them into clothes and down the hall to the car, or stop, wait, listen and enjoy. It really wasn’t any choice at all. Some things are worth making you late.
I breathed in their warmth, basked in their calm, delighted in the bright sparkle of their eyes, praying silently that that light will never go out. 

As we drove to the coffee shop this morning Jada looked out her car window on a bright clear morning. “Look!” she said, “The moon is out!”

“Why is Mr. Moon out?” Twila asked. “Isn’t the moon only out at night?”

I opened my mouth to launch into an explanation about moon phases and the position of the earth in relation to the sun. As a former public school teacher, I have long bought into the need to “fill” our children with information—and the sooner the better. But this morning, I stopped myself. I thought about the problems of too much and how giving our children too much information stymies their natural desire to seek out answers and discover truths for themselves, not to mention lecturing (no matter what the intention) can crush the delight of imagination in a heartbeat.

Instead, I considered her question, “Hmmm,” I thought out loud, “I wonder…” 

Soon, Twila had her own answer, “I bet Mr. Sun and Mr. Moon wanted to have a play date. I bet it was Mr. Moon’s turn to go to Mr. Sun’s house, here in the day time, and next time Mr. Sun will have to go visit Mr. Moon at night!”

And on we drove, the girls watching the grass wiz by in “blurs” and me feeling calm, enjoying my children.