I want to write in the third person to get some distance from my flaws.
I want to believe Madeleine L’Engle when she writes that our flaws will get us through.
I want to tell you that my youngest donned a helmet and a harness and climbed halfway up the rope ladder and almost made it to the climbing wall. That she hugged me when she was done. It was success to just get her onto the rope part of the climbing exercise. It was success for me to say yes when she asked to come down.
I watched other kids get to the top. I cheered with the class.
And the boy who told my daughter she did a good job, he’s the one that saw her for who she is and reminded me yet again how I get in my own way. I mean, I saw that too, but I also let my mind muddy her success as I wondered why she didn’t go a little bit further.
The tree root I rested on reminded me of my own strengths, how re-framing is the only way I get through the day. How I closed my eyes and knew my mind will never get me where I need to go. Only loving gets me through. I knew success when I saw it: Annie on the wall, Annie hugging me in victory. I also knew the feeling of watching other kids and wondering at how different they are. How easy it is to cheer the Olympic athlete. How easy to be jealous, too, to want what is not our life.
When I was in high school, I peaked as a runner my sophomore year. It was glorious to make the varsity team. I never had a year like that again with running, but after that it was the team that was the gift. Lately I’ve been piling through high school pictures, so I can remember what it was like to be 16. At 16, belonging was everything. There I am, next to my teammates, joking around on the bus. There’s the locker sign they made me that reads, “Best Singer.” Not because I was the best, but because I was the worst, but I loved singing and I sang loud and often. I spread my joy and my friends were glad for it.
My tale today isn’t perfect, and my flaws don’t seem to get me through. But sitting on the tree root with my eyes closed, I came to that knowing once again that every kid is on some path that is not visible from the outside. And my mind tricking me into thinking my kid should be the one at the top: um, not helpful. More helpful: the boy that sees my daughter and says, “Good job climbing.”
It’s also easy to heap envy or even dislike to the kid on the top. And then I remember the girl on my cross-country team who won state every year. How gracious and funny and human she was, sharing with us things I won’t even write here. She made me faster because I ran with her at every practice. She’s probably why I peaked sophomore year. That’s what people are talking about when they say classes should be mixed. It would be great if the hierarchy would disappear in those mixed classes. Yes, it would be great if life were perfect. Instead, it’s just this: Messy, me re-framing while sitting on a tree root. My daughter hugging me so happily after she un-clipped her harness form the climbing rope. The air cool and clean and the trees not caring about my flaws.