Month: December 2014

The letter at story time today was F (f).

We heard stories about families, including The Family Book by Todd Parr and Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell.

We sang We’re a Family Under One Sky (by Two of a Kind)
Chorus:
We’re all a family under one sky, we’re a family under one sky
We’re all a family under one sky, we’re a family under one sky

We’re sisters (we’re sisters), we’re brothers (we’re brothers)
We’re fathers (we’re fathers), and we’re mothers, too (we’re mothers, too)

We’re grandmas (we’re grandmas), we’re grandpas (we’re grandpas)
We’re friends (we’re friends), and we’re neighbors, too (we’re neighbors, too)

(Chorus)

We’re plumbers, we’re doctors, we’re nurses, and we’re builders, too
We’re dancers, we’re astronauts, we’re teachers, and students, too

(Chorus)

We’re lions, we’re kitty-cats, we’re puppy-dogs, and we’re sheep, too
We’re horses, we’re cows, we’re snakes, and we’re pigs, too

(Chorus)

We’re American, we’re Russian, we’re Israeli, and Egyptian, too
We’re Mexican, South African, we’re Irish, and we’re Chinese, too

(Chorus)

We’re happy, we’re sad, we’re silly, and we’re tender, too
We’re angry, we’re frightened, we’re curious, and we’re really excited!

(Chorus)

The early literacy tip was about playing:
“Will you play with me? As kids get older, they can play independently more and more. But kids still learn best from interactions with other people, so play along with your kids. Not only is it fun for you, but it brings deeper understanding about the world and each other!”

“Are you waking up?” I ask H as I enter the bedroom. It is his first nighttime wake up. He has called out for me.

“Yeah,” he mumbles in his sweet toddler voice.

“Where are you?” I ask him. My eyes have not yet adjusted to the dark of the room.

“I’m on the bed,” he informs me.

I love the guilelessness with which he answers my questions about such things.

“Where are you?”

I am patting the bed carefully, but I have not located him yet.

“Are you waking up for milk?” I ask to fill the time between now and when I lie down next to him.

“Yeah. I’m waking up, because I am waking up,” he explains.

I smile at his circular explanation.

“I am waking up a lot,” he says.

My smile grows wider and spreads to my heart. He does wake a lot. I am not sure if his statement comes from self-awareness or from stringing together words he knows from other contexts in a way that happens to fit the truth. Either way, in this moment, he has found a way to expand the space in my heart yet again and even more than I knew possible, just by being himself. When I feel the vastness of the space in my heart, as I do now, I step more easily into the expansiveness of the universe and all of the possibility, wonder, and peace that comes with feeling connected to something larger than oneself.

H does wake a lot, and while I vaguely recall how good a night of solid, uninterrupted sleep feels, I am grateful for the lessons in the wake ups. This child, like all children, knows nature and spirit, and I am so lucky, at any hour of the day or night, to have him as my guide.

Today I sat on the platform swing while H pushed me. I do this kind of thing often when H is playing with Kathryn or Cameron. I crawl through tunnels and go down slides and run up ramps. I let pinto beans stream through my fingers and press my hands into globs of shaving cream. I do these things to model for H and as an invitation to play, especially if he seems hesitant about jumping right in. So today I am on a platform swing, and instead of joining me, H has decided to push. Cameron explains that this kind of swing might be harder for him to embrace than the swings he loves at the park, because it does not help him locate himself in space in quite the same way. She is happy to see him engaged with it in any way, so I sit while H pushes.

I am lulled by the gentle rocking and lose myself looking out the mat room windows. Seattle spills south in front of me, and I know if it were clear I would see Mt. Rainier hovering in the distance. Instead of one of my spiritual anchors, I find myself admiring the deep, velvet red of a brick building several blocks away. It looks so dusty soft I imagine that chalky red earth would stain my fingers if I were to touch it. A midnight blue band, just as rich and velvety, circles the top of the building. It is strikingly beautiful, and it happens to be the apartment building H’s father and I lived in when we first moved to Seattle.

H pushes me, and time folds on itself, thirteen years ago merging seamlessly with today. We have just moved into that apartment building, a block from the only level one trauma hospital in Washington State, a hospital committed to caring for the most vulnerable and adrift in Seattle and that serves as the regional trauma referral center for three nearby states. It is not a quiet neighborhood, often chaotic and noisy with ambulance sirens, helicopter landings, and street corner arguments outside our barred garden level windows. I have been in the car for the past thirty minutes circling the area in search of a parking spot at the end of the work day. This is a common occurrence. H’s father does not like it here, he often seems cross, but there are things I find so charming about the apartment that the noise and lack of sunlight and other negatives are not deal breakers for me. I love it for its early 1900s grace: The large square black and white tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, the wood floors throughout, the old porcelain basin bathtub with sides tall enough for a proper bath, the bathroom large enough that it requires extra furniture, the cupboard with openings to the hallway (now sealed) and the apartment that I have been told once served as a place for groceries to be delivered to residents. Here we are, 3,000 miles from where we first met, our relationship still in its infancy, charting a new course together in a new city.

Step to one side of the seam that has patched 13 years ago to today, and I am with H’s father. Step to the other, and I am not. I am moving to Seattle with him, finding this first place to live. I am moving out of the last apartment we will ever share. I am taking a temporary job at a bankruptcy law firm and looking for something I hope will help me uncover my soul’s work. I am drawing and painting and making objects with my hands and teaching children to see and to believe they can accurately record their observations with line and form and color. I believe that H’s father can be my person for today and every today that follows. I know he is not. We are blissfully giddy with new love. We are not. I wonder if we can be happy together. We are not. We are happy together. We are not. It feels strange to experience time twisting on itself like an Ourobros, to be sitting in both the past and the present simultaneously, to feel viscerally the fluidity and non-linearity of time.

Something makes the past recede, and I am solidly back in the mat room with H again. He is putting friends – frog and turtle beanbags and a small square purple beanbag he is calling chicken sausage – on the platform swing with me. He is so dear, his sweet demeanor and imagination a delight to witness as he plays around me.

I reflect on 13 years ago as H continues to push me on the platform swing. What if I had made different choices all those years ago? What if I had not moved across the country with H’s father? What if I had, but not rekindled our relationship after leaving him early on? What if we had reunited, but not gone on to marry? What if I had married, instead, someone who would not end up wanting a divorce? Would I have a child if I had married someone else? Maybe yes, but I would not have H. And this is where this line of thought, no matter how often I run through the mental gymnastics, ends. I would not have H.

No other outcome is palatable, so it seems that everything that has happened up to this point needs to have been. This is where I sit. I am waiting for something to clear, for some debris to dislodge so that I can flow past this point, no longer wanting so much to think my way out of the pain of the divorce. It is a process. I have time. And in the meantime, there is H and the platform swing. The present moment, no matter the pain it has taken to arrive here, feels good.

The day it was announced that a grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, No Justice by Smith & Mighty popped into my head and played on repeat.

H and I were sitting on the big couch that night, him having milk and me singing, “No justice no peace if equal rights and justice is what you seek / No justice no peace the power to the people they must be released / The reason why our lives they are so rough / Because the system is unjust / And the reason why the system is unjust / Because it’s not made for us.”

He popped up and said, “System is made for us.”

I held my inhalation for a beat longer than usual.

H is two and a half years old. He is studying opposites. If I say something in the positive, he turns it to the negative. If I say something in the negative, he turns it to the positive. It is developmentally appropriate behavior, a way for him to play with words and understand how to change the meaning of a statement, a way for him to test and try on the power of words and feel out their limits.

I say that the system is unjust, because it’s not made for us. He takes it and tinkers, giving back to me that the system is made for us.

It caught my breath, because it felt like he was speaking a deep truth. And he was, he was saying something true, but it was word play and exploration, not an intentional commentary on the inequities in our judicial system. He is not yet aware of the legacy of racism in this country he inherited at birth. He doesn’t yet know how deep the roots of racism run and how difficult they have been to pull from our collective consciousness. He can’t yet see that the 50 years that have passed since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are a drop in the bucket of time compared to the preceding 344 years of this country’s domination and subjugation of Native Americans, blacks, and women, just a few of the groups that historically have been downtrodden and oppressed; how hard it is for those 50 years to fight against the slow, lumbering force that is the centuries of European imperialism and colonialism that preceded the rise of America’s political and social dominance on the world stage.

H doesn’t know any of this yet, but he soon will. I am not naive enough to believe that this country will have its issues with race sorted and healed before he becomes aware of them. I am hopeful, however, that he and his generation can be more compassionate, more tolerant, and more peaceful in how they treat one another, no matter the differences that appear to divide them. The differences, after all, are not so great that we cannot find love and peace in our hearts for our neighbors. We are all of us connected. Each of us matters. I am not free until you are. No justice, no peace.

Yes, sweet pea, the system was made for us, and I’m here and you’re here to help transform it into a system that delivers justice for all of us. Let us practice kindness and compassion toward ourselves and others and not be afraid to face straight on the racism that exists, both overt and subtle, in ourselves and others. Racism in any form leaves no one with their dignity intact. Let us not be paralyzed by not knowing the answers at the outset, of not knowing how to to mend these wounds before we start. Let us start right where we are, daunting as that may feel, using the resources we have available to us, meager though they may seem. Let us believe that we can make a difference, though we are but two people, even when the world’s hurt seems overwhelming and impossible to stop. Let us do it together, you and me and our friends and neighbors, let us join forces with the people we know and the people we don’t yet know so that no one is traveling this hard road alone, so that the system we build truly is for all of us. Let us start now.

The letter at story time today was D (d).

We heard stories about dogs, including A Dog’s Life by Caroline Sherman.

We sang BINGO
There was a farmer who had a dog,
And Bingo was his name-o
B-I-N-G-O
B-I-N-G-O
B-I-N-G-O
And Bingo was his name-o!

(Repeat five times replacing each successive letter with a clap.)

The early literacy tip was about talking:
“What are they saying? Animals usually don’t speak English, but it’s fun to imagine what animals might say if they could speak. If you talk to your kids about what they think that dog, cat, squirrel, or crow is saying, you might be surprised at what they come up with!”