When I was at the children’s treatment center I had the real joy of working with the priest on staff, who I wrote about a little bit here. During one of the spirituality and trauma workshops he regularly hosted, he talked about the importance of pointing out God in nature with children. He named some wonderful ways to do this in every tradition and unfortunately my notes from that day were so hurried and all over the margins that I can’t really interpret everything I took in during his talk.
At the time I envisioned me and my future child, quietly walking through the woods. “Mother” he or she would say, with a hint of curiosity and a look of wonder in his or her eyes, “what is all of this?”, gesturing to the land before us. Calmly, assuredly, I would say “My child, this, all of this, is God.” And we would stand in awe of God’s glorious hand at work in the streams and sunlight that surrounded us.
Cut to yesterday, when our girl Zo wants to go for a “WARK!”, which is a walk because she’s on this “all strollers left behind” kick since she was given the option to test out the roads with her own two feet. So when I made the mistake of saying “Let’s walk downstairs!” her eyes lit up and she grabbed her coat. Calmly and assuredly I said, “No Zoey. You must be out of your freaking mind. We can’t walk outside today. It’s like, nothing degrees.” And I was firm because I don’t negotiate with my child. I’m the adult. She has to learn that a NO is a NO! That’s absolutely how it went down. Please feel free to stop reading here and continue on with your day. Be well, friends.
So five minutes later we are navigating between pavement and ice, me in every layer and scarf that I own and Zo in her coat with the little bear ears. Me and the bear. Learning together that in life and love, a NO is a solid “maybe-ish.”
And for the first time in the weeks that we’ve been taking these walks, she holds my hand the entire time and doesn’t pitch a fit when I don’t let her eat a pine cone or play chicken with an oncoming car. It’s quiet and cold and still. And the energy usually spent on herding the crazed bear child, goes toward enjoying our time together and trying to imagine what Z can see from her height over the world. Nervously, I pause and get down to her altitude, hoping my fantastic idea doesn’t end in a mouthful of pine cone, and begin naming what we can see from there: a bird (“brrrrrr”), a bird’s home (“hob”), a dog (“doggie”), some snow (“nooo!” and I agree…)
I remember Fr. Ray and think, “here is an excellent time to flex my parenting/spiritual whatchamacallit skills” and I begin pointing to things and saying “And that’s God and that’s God and that’s God…” Probably sensing how forced and unfamiliar this feels, Zo gives me her one raised eye brow but then chimes in pointing at everything she can find and calling it “DAG!”
My child is spiritually dyslexic.
This goes on for a while. The sidewalk? “DAAAG!” The car? “DAAAG!” The dog shit? “DAAAG!” The group of Loyola bros that we always see loading into the same Jeep cherokee? “DAAAG!”
But then she finds the sky and goes silent, pointing way, way up. I tell her it’s the moon (“mooob”) and she works to find it every few seconds for the rest of our walk home.