Friends, I’ve been absent a long time. It’s a season of busy-ness, but also of things percolating. For now, I’ll offer this link, to a short piece I wrote titled “Reincarnation,” on River Teeth’s Beautiful Things:
A few years ago, I had a dream that the Nurse and the Artist had a baby, and it was a boy who had a very particular name. I dreamed the full name, first and middle. Several years later, when the Artist was pregnant with her second child, their first boy, they had several possible names picked out, including the one I had dreamed. They asked soon to be big sister Nora what her favorite was. She said the baby’s name was Jim, and she never wavered. Every time someone asked her about the baby sibling she was going to have, it was, “I’m having a brother, and his name’s Jim!” And so, Jim it is. In fact, his full name is the exact name I dreamed several years ago, before Nora was even here.
It could be that I was dreaming all those years ago about the Jim that would be born this year. Or it could be that the Nurse and the Artist, people wise enough to take both dreams and the pronouncements of children seriously, made a conscious decision to name their second child in just such a way. It could be that the idea of us is fully formed before we are born, and it could be that we create ourselves and are created, simultaneously and perpetually. I prefer to think it’s the latter, and if that is the case, then I have a sense of responsibility to those I love to participate in their self-creation. In the service of that, I have a few promises for you, Jim:
I promise to keep dreaming for you, to listen to the wisdom of those dreams, and to be there to listen when you want to tell someone about the dreams you have. I promise to ask great questions. I promise to tell you lots of excellent stories about your grandmother. I promise to help you find your own space and shape in the midst of your wonderful and raucous cousins and your playful and wise sister. I promise to remind your Dad about the roundabout and sometimes dangerous paths we took to becoming who we are the minute he starts saying anything that sounds like “Kids these days…” in your general direction.
E: Nora, I like your pretty green dress.
N: No Papa, it’s blue.
E: What, this dress? No, this dress is green.
N: No, it’s blue!
E: Blue? No way, you’re goofy, that’s green.
N: No, YOU’RE goofy, that’s blue!
They’ve been playing this way since she learned her first words for colors. In the beginning she was tentative about it, not quite sure she had her words right. Papa, after all, is much bigger, and he knows far more words, so how could he be the one to make a mistake? Now she is quite confident and calls him out on it every time.
As Fathers’ Day approaches, I’m thinking about all the different ways we are taught. Popular culture has it now that we must intentionally work on our kids’ development on a regular basis. While this springs from the noble goal of doing everything we can to be good parents, it ignores the fact that kids develop every day just by engaging with the world around them, and whether or not we have read the latest book on the subject, we do teach them and help them develop just by being with them and being who we are.
I much prefer the Engineer’s game to any well intentioned educational kids’ activity I’ve seen on Pinterest boards. The game has taught Nora to be confident about the way she perceives the world, and not to hesitate to speak up about it. After all, even Papa, who knows everything, is sometimes just goofy and needs to hear the truth.
I wrote earlier this month about questioning the value of incarnation this Advent season, about having faith, or at times, just attempting to. Recent horrific events in Connecticut have made it even harder to hold these questions, and I walked around for a couple of days furious, shocked and numb. As most everyone else did, I thought of the young ones I love and had to hold at bay any thoughts of “what if” if I didn’t want to hyperventilate.
Increasingly, this Advent season seems to me about holding these difficult questions, as one wonderful commenter on my last post said, sitting with them in the dark before reemerging. I thought of times past when it’s felt necessary to do that, albeit for shorter periods of time, perhaps just the time it takes a plane to take off. I thought of an old post I wrote about What to Say to the Children. Part of my Advent practice this year will be spending time with them, playing with them, loving them, and paying close, close attention to what they say to me. For all their wonderful lessons, I am so very grateful.