fallen grace

"My mind is big when I look at you and talk to you."
--Chief Eagle of the Pawnees.

I've spent a lot of time with my kids this summer, and it's been worthwhile time. We haven't done anything special. We go to the pool and to the mall for school shopping, and we've gone to a couple of pro soccer games. No trips. Not much company. We're in the market for a dog. It's been a good summer.

Stay-home mommies tend to talk about "lots of togetherness"-- a catch phrase for "the kids are on my nerves." But my kids, oddly enough, aren't really on my nerves. Oh, we have our moments. I seek escape in IMing with Greg and other friends, going to the pool to stare at the cute lifeguards, and a writer's retreat scheduled for next week. But, in general, even though the giving is mostly mine, they don't wear on me. They build me up.

I think any kid would say the above about their parents. We make them feel big. It's our job. But I say that about them. If I can create two human beings then what's so great about the endeavour of writing a book, or four? My mind feels big when I look at my kids, and my heart, and my confidence.

This morning my youngest came into my study only to be disappointed by her balloon. The helium had gone to whereever helium goes to die, and the balloon lay limp on the floor, the string fallen in perfect loop-de-loops. I expected tears--she's got sort of a thing for balloons--but she gave me a coy grin instead.

"I'll lift it up and it will stay up."

I started to say, "No, you know they only last a day or so..."

But I wisely stopped myself. After all, I'd just read this in J. Frank Dobey's essay on npr.org:

"The progress of man is based on disbelief of the commonly accepted."

Who am I to say that she won't find the cure for cancer or the common cold? Maybe she'll discover and name the thing that binds us to each other and to the world. Or maybe her life will be filled with ordinary, wonderful things like marrying someone she loves, having kids, and liking her job. But she surely can't and won't do much of anything if I dissuade her from testing the most basic of rules.

A teacher I once knew worked with underpriveledged students. These were kids who thought that the only possible means to financial success were through an unlikely talent on the basketball court or the more common practice of selling drugs and collecting welfare. She used to tell them two important things.

"You have to know what the rules are in order to break them." (Hardly original, I know, but cliches are cliche for a reason.)


"You can look and behave any way you like. Get tattoos. Dress gangsta. Wear gold chains and earrings. Dye your hair purple if you like. It's all ok. Be who you are. But you have to be twice as good, three times as good, at what you do if you step outside convention."

There's always been a raging war between convention and the use of our intelligence. She actually meant to encourage their unconventionality in order to bolster that use. And it often worked too. I know, cuz I was that teacher.

I got a reminder this Monday--always a good day for a fresh start. It's a simple thing, but something I'd forgotten. God is in the details, but grace comes from recognizing which ones need to be questioned. Look at everything and think how it can be deconstructed and then rebuilt into something bigger.

The balloon fell today, but who am I to say that it will fall tomorrow?

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