Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Baby, you look brave


So the kids did not have school today. Thanks for that, Columbus. Though it was a holiday the day was not without struggle. Our trials were likely not as difficult as sailing by night and sailing by day using only the stars to guide our way. But alas, the waters were a wee choppy for us today on our tender vessel.

Because there was no school I was glad to let the girls stay up past their bedtime last night. Though I thought we'd be up just a bit later, it turned out to be ten o'clock before we turned the lights out. This is late for us but I figured we'd make up for it this morning when we could sleep in as late as we wanted. That was until 6:16am when I heard the thunderous sound of galloping girls coming down the stairs and into our bedroom.

It was Emerson who spoke first, "The alarm is going off in our room!" Alone in our bed I was fogged over with unfinished dreams and interrupted REM so it took more than a few seconds for me to register that I had to actually get up out of the bed to figure out what the matter was. Once I had padded up the stairs I heard the unmistakable beeping of the clock radio docking station that sits on Em's dresser.

The odd thing is we never set this alarm in the girls' room because it's the girls' room. Did I mention they're in there? We want them to sleep. When they do have to get up for school Dirk does the waking so they didn't even know there was an alarm in their room let alone how to turn it off. I have no idea how it got set but I'm reasonably sure it was Satan's doing. Though we tried a good plenty, none of us could get back to sleep, so the day started with all of us in a deficit.

Ainsley may as well wear a big oval sticker on her forehead which reads "I am tired" on the days when she is because every little button on her tender soul is ripe for the pushing. After playing outside with friends this morning she burst through the front door with a wail. "She took it! Right from my hands she took it from me!" She exclaimed as though she had just been presented with Sophie's Choice and was aghast at what had been stolen from her. When I asked what the "it" was that had been taken I learned that it was a piece of grass that her dearest friend had taken away. Of course. This explains everything. Guessing I'd misheard I asked (as seriously as I could) "She took a piece of grass from you?" "Yes! And it wasn't just any grass. It was long and wavy and looked like a piece of hay and I wanted it for Lady." For Lady, you see, is a plastic horse. Of course.

We recovered from this disastrous injustice only to find that the peace offering popsicle offered by her little friend had fallen sugar side down into the dirt. Seriously. You can't make this stuff up. I rinsed it off and Ainsley, before heading back out, put her little face just inches before mine and asked "Does it look like there were tears here?" "No, baby, you look brave," I told her, and out the door she went.

This afternoon I had a quick errand to run and Ainsley's little friend came along. This is not uncommon, we just tote along other little people to do our business and everyone seems the happier for it. On the way home I was feeling particularly magnanimous so I made a stop at the McDonald's drive through to get everyone an ice cream treat. All seemed right with the world as the car was a-buzz with sugar laden oohs and ahhs.

So as not to make things seem boring or predictable the girls opted to go outside with their treats and have a "picnic" once we were back home. Why not? It seemed benign enough until the door flung open moments later and instead of a wail I heard more of a blood curdling shriek which caused me to bolt straight to the entry in two giant steps. I was sure I'd find a mountain lion attached to Ainsley's leg, mouth clenched around her little quadricep. But instead she stood alone with ice cream dripping down every side of her head in a rather comical I Love Lucy fashion. "What on earth happened?" was all I could say but she could offer no real explanation. Simply that she wanted to show her friend how she could balance the cup on her head and well, yea, she couldn't do that. Of course. That explained everything.

Now when someone has melted ice cream on every side of their head and their hair is as thick as an alpaca, a bath or shower is required. Except that Ainsley likes both of these things as much as a tooth extraction even when she is well rested. Imagine my delight at getting her into the bathtub in her narcoleptic state. Good times! When the water ran over her head (as she stood in the tub) she wept and wailed as though I was forcing the ice bucket challenge upon her in the North Pole.

It was too much. I'd had it with the drama and the over-reactions and the outbursts of raw emotion. I knew it was unreasonable for her to behave this way and that some responsible adult should step right in and explain to her that (tired or not), this all had to stop. But darned if there wasn't anyone there but me. Huh. It still (nine years later!) amazes me that I'm the one who's supposed to come up with the well chosen words, the timely response, the pulled together plan.

Because I had no inspiration to share I just said nothing. I just poured the water over her head and watched it run down her supple spine and round bottom. Her perfect little form wet and slippery. She is such a miracle to me. And somehow that is what I saw in her. Not a wailing child but rather a gift from God. I scrubbed her hair and rinsed out the suds and said nothing to her as she protested. I carefully lifted her out of the tub and onto the fluffy mat, wrapped her in a towel and hugged her to my chest. Her wet head lay on my shoulder and she quietly cried. The girl was tired. Dog tired. Me too. I put my face close to hers and reminded her what a good listener she is. How careful she is with her friends and how glad it makes me when she obeys the first time without complaint. I reminded her I expect a lot of her because I know she is capable of a lot and that it's not okay for her to raise her voice and stomp about. Through her tears she apologized to me and I gladly accepted.

I wiped her tears away, and though she didn't ask me if she looked brave, she absolutely did and so did I. Gentleness is such a force. Meekness, such a strength. I don't walk it out well and beautifully every moment and have come unwound more times that I'd like to recount. But when I stop and quiet myself and see the beauty before me I am the strongest I've ever been. Meekness is the harder path, the choppier sea, but it is the far better course. The strength in self restraint is mighty and magnificent and we're all so brave for giving it a go. So to explorers and all weary travelers I raise my glass to a brave new world indeed.

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.

Christopher Columbus


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