It is safe to let your light shine! on an affirmation card
It was every young-mother-who-was-trying-to-look-like-a-good-parent’s nightmare, that Sunday morning over thirty years ago when the four of us — my husband Cam, our two wee boys and I — stuffed ourselves into a pew in a packed-to-the-max neighborhood church. I’m not sure what we were thinking in this pre-nursery era of churchgoing. Our youngest wasn’t yet two and the older was under four and both boys were filled with vim and vigor and an amazing radar for sensing when their parents were on the verge of losing it. The more uptight we became and the more restrictive they sensed the setting, the the wilder the boys’ energy grew. I’m sure we brought with us a bag filled with favorite books and toys, sure we held our pre-schoolers tight and whispered in their ears that that this was not the place for their outbursts of glee, that they, too, needed to whisper. We were trying to be good parents, sincerely trying, and that’s what makes what happened next so mortifying.
I’m not even sure how it happened. Were we lulled in by a false sense of momentary calm or were we just plain tired of holding them so tightly? For whatever reason, my husband and I both loosened our grips at the same time, and that’s when they made a break for it, a wild and obviously-out-of-our-control break for it, a speedy and giggling beeline race right up that neighborhood church’s center aisle, to the pulpit and the minister who was in the midst of his Sunday morning sermon. I didn’t know what to do next and my young husband sitting next to me looked even more dumbfounded. I think we sat there a moment in shock, then one of us — or maybe both of us — must have slunk up that aisle and grabbed our feral children. And maybe we grabbed our books and toys, too, and made our own speedy beeline right out of that neighborhood church.
I thought of this incident almost two weeks ago now, on Day Four of our grandparent-alone-time with the older of these speedy church racers’ just-barely-turning-two-year-old son. It had been a fabulous weekend. Really it had. I’m not having to sugar-coat the sweetness of this precious experience. We picnicked more than once on the shores of Lake Superior, tossed rocks into the water, splashed in the waves and buried our feet in the sand. We waved at gulls and sometimes chased them. We swung on the swings of at least five different play areas in Marquette County. And we had delicious quiet times cuddling on our cozy couches and wild pot-banging parades through our now-toddler-friendly-home. I had a blast and I’d venture to say that toddler Viren and Grandpa Cam had a blast too. Viren’s enthusiasm is boundless as was his father’s and his uncle’s, and like his father and his uncle before him, his energy often matches this enthusiasm. And why would I ever want to dampen it?
I know a part of me felt like a terrible parent that day in church over thirty years ago, and, I admit it — I also might have felt, during those horrendous-for-me-in-front-of-the-church-moments, that my kids were also terrible. Except I didn’t really think either of these things. Deep down, I knew it even then, that their wild spirits were awesome and I also knew that I didn’t want to squelch this spirit. What I hadn’t yet grasped, however, is that a whole hour of church-sitting for two wildly-in-love-with-moving young fellows was just too much. A week ago, after years of learning to sense energy in myself and others, I can’t claim a young mother’s ignorance. I knew I was headed for a challenge as Viren and I walked through the door of Maquette’s Food Co-op.
Viren and I already had packed a multitude of errands into this Monday morning, culminating with an hour of rousing climbs and slides and swings and scampers at Marquette’s Lower Harbor Castle-themed playground, and it was now past noon, time to wind down, time for a Viren nap and a Grandma pause. I knew this, and, yet, we were out of Wet Ones and a two-year-old’s bottom needs environmentally-toddler-friendly Wet Ones, so there was the one more stop, the stop that pushed Viren over the edge. And he toppled over the edge in the way that his father and his uncle used to take the plunge — he transformed himself into something wild and unwieldily. It started out okay, with him holding my hand as we walked together, adorable grandson and doting grandmother, through the produce aisle on our mission to find Wet Ones. But then, in that blink of an eye as I reached for some grapes, he broke free, and he zipped away, and just like that, I lost him, down the pasta aisle, up the aisle that holds the juices, around the corner, to the deli where I caught up again and he threw himself down, on purpose in a deadweight right in front of the case of string cheese, refusing to budge, until he caught his breath and hopped back up, zipping away like a Nascar racer intoxicated with his own sense of speed. At some point, I found the Wet Ones, along with a package of Annie’s alphabet-shaped macaroni and cheese, and, clumsily clutching my groceries, grabbed my vim-filled and flailing grandson. And somehow, I, the now haggard-and-no-longer-doting-grandmother managed to get myself in the check-out line.
I held him fast, my writhing-and-hooting-and-hollering-and-laughing-and-almost-crying-and-definitely-needing-a-nap-grandson, as a dear friend of mine from behind the counter rang up those Wet Ones. And I’m not sure if it was her compassionate presence, her obvious love and delight as witness to this barely-hanging-in-there check-out scene, but I felt my strength grow, felt a confidence in my ability to hold this grandson of mine. And I said it out loud, said it to Viren and to my cashier friend and I said it to myself, too: “I can handle my Viren boy’s energy!” I said it with my own vim and vigor, and I meant it. And my friend, who knows me well, replied, “He’s not too much for you!” And he’s not too much for me. And there’s nothing more enlivening than feeling a two-year-old moving with pure unbridled force. There’s nothing more enlivening than feeling yourself a container for such force. So this time, thirty years later, I held my head high, as I, holding tight to my bag of groceries and this wild bundle of unbridled energy, walked out into the brilliant and sunny day.