Above the cacophony of the birthday party going on downstairs (Nikki turned 12 last week), I heard an odd noise that sounded something like “home…home…home…” coming from one of the bedrooms. I tip-toed down the hall to investigate.
There was Maddie, perched on her bed, her back toward the door, sitting in a lotus position with her outstretched hands pointed sky-ward. “Om…Om…Om…” she repeated, like a miniature yogi in deep meditation mode.
I stood and watched her for awhile, enthralled with yet another way that this five-year-old surprises and amazes me. Why was she here when all the excitement was downstairs?
Despite my efforts to stay silent, she spotted me. I thought she might be embarrassed, but she smiled a welcoming smile.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Why are you meditating?”
“Well, I just thought I needed time to myself so I wouldn’t get too worked up.”
“That’s a really good idea. Did someone teach you how to do that?” I knew she’d never seen anyone in our house model a meditation pose like that. Perhaps her teacher or a daycare worker had showed her.
“Nope. I just taught myself,” she said, matter-of-factly, as though it were commonplace for a five-year-old to disappear to her room for a time of meditation.
A few days later, I heard the “Oms” coming from her room again, and this time I didn’t interrupt. Another time, she said to me “Mom, let’s go meditate together.” So we did.
For twelve years I’ve been a mom. You’d think by now I’d know that these little people entrusted to my care teach me way more than I can hope to teach them.
When I look into Maddie’s room, I see alot of boxes. She looks in and doesn’t see a single one.
Instead, she sees an airplane, a house for Joe Banana, a swimming pool, and a guest house for all of Joe’s friends. It’s a magical room for a magical little girl, where cardboard transforms into whatever she wants it to be.
What do you see, boxes or possibility?
As I watched Maddie play in the water on the slide the other day, I came to an odd and rather uncomfortable realization. I have spent the past 5 years preparing for her funeral.
I watch her play and more often than I care to admit, a fleeting thought passes through my mind. “How will we describe her at her funeral? We’ll talk about how delighted she was to splash in puddles. We’ll recount some funny stories about her. We’ll say she was a ray of sunshine after the dark. We may even play some of her self-produced videos.”
It’s not that I spend a lot of time worrying about her imminent death. She’s a healthy, robust child who barely ever got sick until this past year at daycare when she was exposed to all the pesky bugs that love to breed in a room full of small children. Yes she has a heart murmur, but the doctors tell us it is very, very slight and nothing to be concerned about.
So then why am I preparing for her funeral? I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Nikki and Julie’s funerals, why Maddie?
The thing is, when you bury one child, death perches on your doorstep and you can never again live in a fantasy world that “it couldn’t happen here”. After we lost our son Matthew, we had a miscarriage. Throughout my pregnancy with Maddie, I waited for the day when the pregnancy would end. It seemed inevitable somehow.
When Maddie was born a healthy beautiful child, I thought “well, I’ll enjoy the time I have with her because it won’t last.” When the doctor discovered a heart murmur, I thought “no big surprise. I knew it wouldn’t last”. When they told us the heart murmur was so slight it was of essentially no concern, I thought “okay, then it will be something else that will take her.” I never said these things out loud, but somewhere in a hidden corner of my mind, I believed them.
I know it’s crazy and irrational, but it’s what the mind does sometimes. I don’t obsess about it, and it hasn’t made me into one of those overly-protective can’t-let-the-child-out of-my-sight parents, but it sticks with me and pops up now and then when I watch her.
I think it is the memory of Mrs. B. standing at her son’s grave that has brought this all back to me now. I wish I could banish death from my doorstep and go back to the fantasy that it could never happen here
The pot of gold may very well be at the end of our street!
Maddie’s ready to start digging for it.
Right after she’s finished skipping through the puddles. Eventually, the sun came out, the rainbow faded, and it was time for some swinging.
Conversation just before the following video was taken:
Me: Maddie – you’re going to fill your boots with water!
Maddie: I KNOW! That’s a GOOD thing! That’s what I’m HERE for!
In the end, the boot became a bucket for pouring water on the teeter-totter.
I think I found the gold – somewhere beneath the layers of mud on her face when she climbed in the tub.
I love it when my kids teach me things. They do it nearly every day, though they’re usually not aware they’re doing it. This is what Maddie taught me lately… And yes, you SHOULD try this at home.
My little butterfly turned five this weekend.
Happy Birthday, Maddie Monkey.
You’re growing so quickly, it almost takes my breath away. Some day soon, you’ll stop having baths with me, and you’ll no longer beg for lie-with-me-night. Some day soon, you won’t reach your arms up for me to lift you into the air. Some day you won’t ask for “trouble” and then laugh as I toss you onto the bed. Some day you won’t tell me funny stories about the little man in your toe who wipes his tiny little bum. Some day you won’t want to play “would you rather” anymore. Some day, you won’t pull out your little Fisher Price schoolhouse and ask me to play the teacher/mother while you play the child. Some day, you’ll read your own story books and no longer care if I read them to you. Some day we won’t build high towers out of Lego. Some day, you’ll ride your own bicycle and no longer bounce around on the tag-a-long, singing and laughing. Some day I won’t push you on the swing anymore.
When that day comes, I’m sure I will cherish the new moments that come with it, but a piece of me will wish that today had lasted just a little longer.