Tag Archives: children

The speed of childhood

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 “But to be most effective, the faces of the children would need to be painted in a blur, the way all children’s faces truly are.  For they blur as the run; they blur as they grow and change so fast; and they blur to keep us from loving them too deeply, for their protection, and also for ours.”  –Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister 

In the past week, I got to visit my babies that I’ve had the privilege of watching live.  My baby cousins, now little boys with hobbies and voices and lives, and the children I babysit, now in preschool and building Lego houses, are not the tiny ones I once knew.  I have held them and fed them bottles, burped them and felt their tiny fingers squeeze my own.  I have propped them on my hips and stroked their wispy hair.  And now they are all walking, talking tiny people.  They like some food, hate others.  They tell jokes and giggle and tell me stories.  They say my name and climb into my lap all on their own.  In the past four years, I have stagnated and life has passed with no noticeable changes.  For them, life has made them unrecognizable.  I love their little toddler voices and the little boy stories they tell.

To see these children grow is bittersweet.  They bring us all so much joy as they develop and change.  They become more complete and whole as we watch.  I do not see them nearly as often as I would like, so each time I meet new children, find new little lives that have developed.  I watch as their scribbles straighten into shaky letters and words.  Their steps stabilize and evolve into endless running.  I love seeing them become more every day, but I miss those tiny bodies that slept and cried and just wanted to be cuddled.  It’s the pull everyone feels, every parent agonizes over: an ache to keep the baby frozen in time and an excitement to watch the child come into their own. 

I watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader this week too.  The Chronicles of Narnia were a fixture of my childhood.  I can remember sitting on the couch, next to my dad, in my brothers’ room, listening to the stories before bed.  But, in the scariest way possible, the memories are fading.  They stories are hard to remember, the details vague.  I can’t remember the nightgown I wore or which side of my dad I sat on.  I remember the story time, feel my heart swell each time I hear the books even mentioned, but the details are fuzzy.  It scares me that twenty years have melted away and that life will never return. 

 Watching the movie, I lost it and cried uncontrollably as the children slept on a dark beach.  They lay next to the fire, Eustace quietly crying his giant dragon tears.  I felt that fear, that pain so deeply.  I wake up and have no idea how I became this monster, this grown-up with freedom and power and authority.  I don’t know where my old life went and how I managed to let it slip away.  It is lonely and uncertain and all I can think is how much I want to be back home with my parents protecting me.  Somehow, my life got away from me.  That story, those words that lulled me to sleep all those nights, are forever a memory, never again reality.  I don’t get to go back, to return to those nights.  This, more than anything, breaks my heart. 

I marvel at the little lives I get to watch unfold.  I am a witness to their stories being written, their memories branded, their persons formed.  I love knowing more of them, privy to more of their thoughts and ideas and joys.  I do mourn the quiet, small times when they couldn’t play tee ball or chase after the dog.  I miss the soft weight of their tiny bodies curled against my chest.  I am trying to remember to enjoy them just as they are, each time I see them.  It is exciting to tell my parents about the changes they have to miss, the wonders of the everyday.  As I was told all about cars and school, I was just struck by how fast is has all gone by.  It is a reminder that each day is only here for a moment, that things change and people grow.  The first girls I ever babysat are now graduating from high school. 

The years streak by and there is joy in the changes that they bring.  The danger is not savoring the changes as they come, enjoying the process of life.  The more I drink in the present and force myself to be present, the more salient the memories become, sinking deeper into me.  Those nights, listening to stories of dragons and fauns and witches, my mind was not wandering.  I was not worried about the next day or regretting the one passed.  I was quiet and still, drinking in the story as it happened. 

“…Stop this train I want to get off and go home again/ I can’t take this speed it’s moving in/ I know I can’t/ ‘Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train…”  –John Mayer, “Stop This Train”

All dressed up and nowhere to go

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“A father is always making his baby into a little woman.  And when she is a woman he turns her back again.”  –Enid Bagnold

I’m sitting in my stuffy room after school.  As Nickelodeon cartoons flicker from the old tv in the corner, I riffle through my closet, squeezing between the Barbies and shoes, making my way to the back.  I pull my Easter dress off of the hanger, hopping back out onto the carpet.  I pull the dress on, fluffing the sleeves that my mother painstakingly sewed, and toss my uniform aside.  Peeking from my door, I race down the hallway to the bathroom to admire my gown.  I comb my hair and make sure the bow is tied perfectly at my waist, and then sneak back to my room.  I hide quietly, listening for the familiar crack of the front door opening.  For no particular reason, with no particular plans, I sit and wait for my dad to get home from work.  Maybe it is because I think this is what a princess does.  Maybe I just want to wear my dress more than one day that year.  Mostly it’s because he’s my dad and he’s coming home from work.

I sit with crumpled brown paper book covers making my legs itch.  Binders surround me and my eyes feel heavy.  Frantically trying to finish homework before Letterman’s Top Ten, I scribble on the couch across the room from my father.  He turns on Sports Center and I continue to work, procrastination becoming a familiar foe.  He turns the volume down and begins to tell me about whatever game is being recapped.  And about his day.  And that leads to stories about college, or childhood before cable, or the years when I was too young to be up this late.  Then it’s movies he loves, the books they remind him of, the art classes he once took.  Some stories are old, ones I’ve heard a dozen times.  Others are new, adding a new dimension to this man whose known me since I was an amorphous cell cluster.  Some are favorites I love each time and others I tune out as I continue work.  Only now do I realize what a sacrifice that was, staying up so late and getting up so early, working so hard and forgoing his rest to talk with me. 

I’m hot and tired and sore and hiking the longest trail I’ve ever seen.  I want to cry and shower and be anywhere but here.  He laughs along with the boys in my class, leading the hike with them while I lag behind with my friends, hating the camping adventure.  I hate them for being with him, hate him for wanting to be with them.  I hate this trip and the nettles that scratch legs and everything.  Then he drops back, slowing himself down, leaving the guys whose company he’s enjoying, and brings up the rear with us.  He’s a favorite chaperone, and enjoys the time with the class, and decides to lag behind.

I head out to visit him at a conference.  With no work, I have nothing tying me to the city so I head out.  He has sessions to attend, but we walk through the town and find a restaurant to enjoy dinner.  We talk about our weeks, what I like to drink, my brothers, the people around us.  We venture through a park, posing with the statues we find there, snapping pictures in the chilly drizzle.  We watch a marathon of Lock Up, laughing and riveted by the documentary of our prison system.  We go to dinner at a museum, he networking and me perusing the exhibits.  I put on a dress I bought a year before but never had reason to wear.  I want to look professional for the executives at the conference.  I want to look business-like, or fashionable, I’m not quite sure.  I just know that I’m still dressing up for my dad, simply because his work day is done.  I am always a daddy’s girl.

A Season of Potential

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“Mary, did you know/ That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?/ Did you know/ That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?/ Did you know/ That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?/ And when you kiss your little boy/ You’ve kissed the face of God…” –Mark Lowry

I love the Christmas season.  Advent does not even seem long enough to prepare for Christmas.  A mere four weeks simply does not give enough time to be ready for the holiday.  I have always loved Christmas, as far back as I can remember.  I’m sure that the showering of gifts didn’t hurt my childhood love of the holiday, but there is so much more to it than that. 

I love the preparation for Christmas.  As I think about my family’s traditions, so much comes to mind that I will have to save that for another night.  So full of nostalgia and comfort, our rituals are as much a part of the holiday as the date itself.  I love the closeness of people, the openness and generosity, that surrounds the holiday.  I love the food, the celebration and joy that surrounds the day.  And I especially love Christmas carols.

Working retail has almost broken me of my love for Christmas music.  For a holiday that is deeply religious in its origin, there are few songs that are strictly secular.  Those few are the ones that repeat all day long in the store.  They are jolly and festive, but rarely as moving as those that at least mention, if not celebrate, the origin of the holiday. 

Today, for the first time this season, I heard part of Mary Did You Know? on the radio.  This song, first introduced to me in Catholic elementary school, has always moved me.  The lyrics are beautiful and the song is almost haunting in its questioning.  Did she know that the baby she carried would be who He was?  I have studied the Gospels in detail and I know the stories of the Nativity relatively well.  Biblically, the angel came to her and another visited Joseph.  Sure, they got the jist of what was to come, of how much this child would change their lives.  So little scripture is devoted to them and the start of their family, that it’s easy to over-simplify the gravity of their situation.  I wonder how much they really understood. 

This song hits so deeply at the personal side of the story.  I think this is probably why I find it so moving.  My dad has told me that as a parent it is a completely different experience to listen to the lyrics.  Did that girl have any idea what she and her little boy were in for?  As she felt Him grow, as she gave birth, as she held and fed and bathed Him, did she have any idea?  Could she have foreseen the crucifixion when she washed His scraped knees?  Did she really understand the incarnation of God in her baby?  Can anyone wrap their mind around that in a finite way?  Or was she just a new mother, glad that the child was alive and had ten fingers and toes? 

I spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle and my two young cousins.  One of my cousins just turned five and the other one.  They are such tiny people, already forming personalities.  They have opinions and ideas and tell stories.  Despite these things, they are so unformed.  There is so much more about them that will develop and grow and define them.  It’s exciting to think that they are just starting to become actual people, to be more than cute little talking dolls.  I don’t see them as often as I would like, so when I do, they are so different!  They change and grow so quickly, and I’m excited to watch them grow up.  The older they get, the more excited I am to know them and witness their lives unfolding. 

I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt the same way.  Did they revere their son and see Him as God, or did they get excited when He started to become someone.  Did they know He was destined for things that the word “great” doesn’t even begin to describe, or was is just fun to hear Him tell stories and be excited over bugs and leaves and every little that caught His eye?  I know that Christianity, and particularly Catholicism, place Mary in high esteem and like to think of her as holy and special.  I do not think that she was unimportant or ordinary.  I do think she was human.  I think it makes the story so much better to think of her that way.  She was a young, first-time mother who knew her baby was different, knew that she was different, but couldn’t possibly know the big picture.  She was a mom.  It had to have been hard and tiring and exciting and scary and joyful and frustrating and everything in between.  It had to have been fun to watch His hesitant first steps and hear Him talk about His friends and watch Him be a big brother.  The biggest part of the miracle of Christmas, the part that is so important, was the humanity.  God became human.  It’s a much better story when His parents are too.

“If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.”  –Maria Montessori