Copper Wisdom

I gasped as I reached for the strings, which, in slow motion and yet so quickly evaded my fingertips.

My hands went to cover my mouth, as I looked at my girls, buckling themselves in the back of the truck. 

They heard my gasp and were looking at me already. 

What I really wanted to do was cover my eyes so as not to see the realization occur on their faces.

They trusted me with their balloons, each worried they might let go of them as they got into the truck. 

I thought twice as I placed them in the front cab, but watched for a few seconds as my door remained open, to make sure they wouldn't escape as I helped Hadz buckle.  And they stayed.

Until they didn't.

There are few times when the parent is in a position to feel … well … like the child.  I expected disappointment, even anger to come from them.  I apologized, sincerely and with their full attention on me.  We watched the red balloon ascend quickly, the blue one we couldn't find.  I quickly walked to the side yard to see if maybe, just maybe the blue one had gotten caught in a tree.  But I think the wind took it in a different direction than the red.  By the time I had turned around the girls were already by my side, as hopeful as I was seconds prior that maybe something could be resurrected from the reality that was, at this point, unavoidable.

And the questions started.

Can we go to Penfolds to get a new one Mom?  Why not?  Well, just because we don't need to eat there doesn't mean we can't ask them for one.  Mom.  Will Fresh and Easy (grocery store) have them? Why not, Mom.

I wanted to fix the situation.  

I wanted to show them how sorry I was.  

But as quickly as I considered getting them each a new balloon, 

is as quickly as I felt some kind of resistance.  

No brilliant thoughts or words.  

No voice in my head with a better alternative.  



I offered the idea that maybe their balloons, in the sky, caught the eye of a child, and made them smile.  Hadley went along with it; Maycee, more experienced in the field of emotion yet also more volatile, just sat with eyes puffed with tears.

I truly felt her broken heart in my heart.

I tried to change the subject to what they wanted me to make for dinner. 

They got out of the truck and May looked at me with that body language that says, "I need a hug", and so we hugged in the parking lot, then Hadley joined in, suddenly and predictably feeling what her bigger sister was feeling.  May sobbed a quiet sob.

How sad she must have looked to others, pushing their carts and seeing her grieving the loss of something so important to her.

I briefly thought of a dessert I could make to cheer her up.  

And again I was met with resistance.

Half-way through our shopping things seemed to turn around.  She became her helpful and persistent self again.  She ran all the groceries through the self check-out with less help than the last time, and I found myself in thought.  

I realized as I watched her that kids are perfectly capable 

of healing their own wounds, 

of filling themselves up from the emptiness, 

of coping with the disappointments that life exposes them to.  

And I felt relieved.  

Not because I was off the hook, 

but that I followed that resistance and chose not to act in the energy of trying to make it all okay again.  

I sat in the emptiness of what I felt, 

just like they sat in the emptiness of what they felt.

We headed out.  She stopped, as she knows to do, at the small rubber pillars that signal where the store ends and the street begins.  She put her hand on top of one and as we started to walk across the street, a familiar sound occurred. The sound of a coin hitting the ground.  It caught her ear and she searched for the source of that sound, and found a penny.

She, SHE was excited to have found a penny.  I, I matched her expression of excitement -- but for a different reason.  That penny, to me, in that moment, under those circumstances, summed it all up.  It was the bright spot in the dark tunnel that seemed to signify the end of the sorrow and the beginning of something new.

So, loading the truck with groceries we brainstormed what to do with that penny.  May wanted to buy something with it and as I tried not to snicker I offered the idea of throwing it in water and making a wish.  May wanted to drive to the mall to throw it in the fountain, but with fresh groceries in the car, we opted for the waterfall in the neighborhood up the street.

They each held it and made a wish.  Hadley, not yet aware of what a wish means, said she was thankful for her family.  I tried to give her examples of wishes then realized hers was perfect as it was without me mucking around in it.  It won't be long before her naivety, so innocent and real and pure, gives way to the full realm of emotions that seem to occur as life teaches her more just a couple of years up the path.  Maycee wished for green ice cream with chocolate chips on a cone.  But I told her she had to keep it to herself in order for it to come true.  I really should have stopped mucking after the first mucking, but thankfully I didn't ruin the scene.  

May wound up and threw it in the pond; luckily the duck wasn't in the way (oh, where that would have lead this blog post!).    

When we try to fill the void for them, what is it that we are teaching them?  

That we care?  Yes.  

That we love them?  Yes.  

That we are sorry.  Yeah.  

I don't necessarily think that, had I rushed them out to get them new balloons, as a way for me to show just how apologetic I was, that I would have been all that wrong.  

I messed up big time with something that meant a lot to them.  

But I might have deprived them of the opportunity let time do what it always does.  

The stillness that occurs when sorrow arrives should not scare us into reacting.  

I think there should be red flags that go up in our heads when we find ourselves reacting from a place of guilt.  

When inspired by guilt, are we really responding genuinely to the moment, or are we responding to make the guilt go away?  

If we jump to replace that heavy emotion with excitement about _______ (a new toy, a treat, an activity they love), 

then how will they learn to exist in that stillness?  

How will they learn that the stillness isn't something to fear or cover up, that it will dissipate; that time alone can heal; that they can get through it?  

I think there is an undeniable connection between the resistance I felt in the moments of wanting to fix it all, and the penny that ended up right under Maycee's hand.  And while that force of resistance had no words of wisdom to share with me, it is as if it made itself clear and real in the form of a copper penny. 

Oh.  And, one last thing.  Feeling like the child under their disappointed gazes made me want to be softer with their energetic, mistake-producing, always curious, amazing young spirits.  Maycee's first tears shed were to tell me she knew how sorry I was; I need to show her the same intense compassion and understanding when she shares her sorries with me.

 © Houseman 2013