Boy one is coughing again. Boy two has been down for the count since Saturday. We got home from picking out the Christmas tree and he disappeared. We found him sound asleep in his room. He’s been see through white and pasty ever since, hacking like an old man. Girl one is coughing and complaining of an ear ache. Girl two is tired and also coughing. After wracking her whole little self, she breathes in again and smiles at me through watery eyes. Whatever the weather of our lives, this one smiles. Her eyes say, it’s ok, mom, life is good.
My grandfather tells a story about two brothers at Christmas. The first opens a large expensive electric train set. “Hopefully it doesn’t break,” he says. The second boy opens a small box filled with poop. “Hurray!” he yells jumping up and down. “When do I meet my pony?”
My grandfather says that’s the definition of an optimist.
It reminds me of girl two.
The frustration of kids that don’t get better and limp in and out of health for months is really starting to get at me. A musical evening to sing at each other isn’t the only thing on hold while I try and figure out how to help them beat this virus. We cancelled and postponed and sent regrets this week and last. The kids are sick of me pushing hard on bedtimes and healthy eating. They want candy and late nights NOW. I’m sick of pushing too, but I want them well.
Common-sense-me says to stay the course. Life happens. Paranoid-me is fretting that school teachers, and music teachers, and cub leaders, and the grand everybody will think we don’t care, that the kids couldn’t possibly still be sick. Perspective is a little mouse loose in the kitchen. I have a pot lid and have reached to catch it again and again. Just when I think I’ve got it, it squiggles out. Soon, I will get a broom, I tell myself. With nothing else in control, at least I can send that uncatchable mouse through the kitchen window.
Girl two has recently shared her long term vision for the future. She loves our home so much, she says, that she is never leaving. When she is a grown up, she will hire a special builder to come and make a new kind of bed. This way, she and I and her father and sister can have our own beds but have them hooked all together. (I imagine the neighbours will want to take a look someday but that’s another story.)
For girl two, nothing really matters as long as we’re together. Construction plans aside, it reminds me to take a deep breath and let it go. With sore throats, ear aches, and coughs abounding, we’re in this together. That’s a pretty good gift.
When I was a teacher, I would tell my students that it was important to dream. That really no one, including you, knows who you might become. At the same time, I would tell them, we are only human. We have limits. There is something called reality. If you are two feet tall, you are not going to star in the NBA. Accepting your limits is ok. It doesn’t mean you stop dreaming.
I have a child who wants to become a saint. Let’s just say, it’s a long shot.
It hurts to watch her struggles. Her dream is painful to me. Part of me wants to tell her to give it up until she can at least listen to her mother, but something tells me to keep my mouth shut. There are worse things to dream about.
I want some comfort. I want cold hard facts. Tell me that Mother Teresa once had a thing for stealing chocolate milks, and I’m there. Mostly. Maybe add in that Mother Teresa lied like a cheap rug. Was a master storyteller, practicing her art at a tender age, before she taught us how to live.
If sainthood requires compliance, this mother superior sees trouble ahead. Things like, do not go into my room without permission, are routinely ignored despite consequences. Nail polish, scissors, or a button are deemed worth suffering for. I went through the boots last week and found something to fit everybody. Young saint deemed her grey boots unsuitable. She hides sneakers in her bag because they are boy boots and she would rather have her toes frozen than inside them.
Give it up, child! I want to scream. It is hopeless even without your dream.
She frustrates me , confounds me. Her dream to be a saint is beautiful, but it hurts to think about. Her teachers couldn’t possibly do anything but laugh at the idea.
This summer at the bus shelter, I discovered chaos. My recycling had been raided. Plastic bottles filled with this and that were on the floor. The benches were covered with piles of papers, disheveled, some also on the floor. I clenched my teeth, sick of the messes and picked up a few of the pictures. They had little money signs taped on them. 25 cents. 1$. A sign said, “Art sale.” Beside it was a labelled jar. “Money for the poor,” it said.
Sitting in a parking lot yesterday, I realized that I was being asked to give more than clear re-direction, and considered consequences. Against the odds, in the face of everything that laughs, I need to believe in her dream.
I didn’t arrive home to angels dancing. I arrived home to stories that didn’t add up. Today I will drive her to school and stand with her while she makes amends. Others may rightly shake their heads in frustration. I am sad at her choices, but I will hold her hand today and believe that this little girl will someday be a saint.
(Fasting from all things masculine as prayer for the sick? Stolen art for the needy? anybody? anybody?)
No, really, I’m going to believe it. We both need me to.