Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Today I filled up our toddler pool in the backyard, this time with water. Last week it needed air. I went knocking on doors in search of an air compressor only to walk home empty handed. I psyched myself up to inflate the entire pool (which could double as a white water raft) with only my lungs. I only blacked out twice.
My girls have already discovered the need to make things more interesting. Splashing water and dancing under the trickling “waterfall” no longer satisfies their adventurous hearts. Now we pull a 3-foot red slide over and place the end of it into the pool. Who needs Six Flags? (I already know what you’re thinking…if you plan to come, we charge admission- a week’s supply of diapers and gift card to Bonefish Grill, for the kids of course)
Today Summer sat atop the slide and stared across at her sister. “Waterfall?” she asked.
Maren fiddled with the hose and the connecter that fed into the waterfall. Should I let Maren play with something she could break? In the midst of my deliberation, I whispered to Summer, “She’s working on it.”
Maren’s head popped up. “I’m workin’ on it!” she proudly proclaimed.
They’re always listening, I thought. In conjunction, I realized the weighty impact of my words. This goes far deeper than censoring my speech. My girls already know how to read. Not written words, but the tone of my voice and the body language I use. All the time. Just last week, I drove them home from swim lessons. That particular day, Maren refused to roll over onto her back after a simulated “falling” into the pool. The swim teacher exhorted her by dropping her off the diving board at least eight times before Maren complied. On the way home, I recounted the events aloud over the phone. “Maren is so stub…” I stopped myself. She may look like she’s staring off through the window, but she’s listening. She doesn’t know what stubborn means, but oh does she hear the passion in her daddy’s voice. Even though I think there’s a glory to her stubbornness, her commitment to stand in the midst of opposition, I shudder at the thought of her receiving a negative label as I process aloud.
I cannot entirely shelter my daughters’ hearts from labels and categories. But it brings up a good question: Can I name the gifts, glories, and dignity in my girls without boxing them?
P.S. I wish my insights did not always beget new questions.