In the span of twenty-four hours, so much shifts, rises, and falls for my children and the two of us, sometimes changing as frequently as Texas weather. I often find myself feeling ill-equipped with the garments of parenthood, like I should have a mental suitcase similar to Mary Poppins’ carpetbag catch-all, readily packed for inclement times, extremely sunny days, and frigid emotional temperatures all at once. This miracle worker of children and families alike is just a fiction, however, and I cannot stack up to someone who is “practically perfect in every way.”
For these past weeks, each day begins in the same order, waking with the infant before the dawn and readying him for his day. When our daughter emerges from her nest, I attempt to hold to a routine; by lunch, that unravels and devolves into a survival of the fittest mentality that is a sign of the times we are enduring. It is never apparent by the state of our home, but I crave order and shun chaos. Do you color code your side of the closet and sort everything by height, size, or alphabet? No? Just me, then. The irony is that, as a parent of two children of vastly polarized stages of growth, order falls by the wayside and chaos is more of a constant.
Over this Easter weekend, our four lives intertwined again, with all under one roof, trying to celebrate a holiday that, for one of the first times ever, was isolated within our home. No church services to attend in person. No family, but our own, to surround us. No grandmothers’ houses for Egg hunts. It was our job, as guardians of childhood, to bring the true, lasting, and vital message of the holiday AND still include the excitement and novelty of the bunny’s visit. We were reprieved with the younger child; however, I found myself on edge for the six year old, worried she would be disappointed by the lackluster attempt at festivity. I feel the same about Christmas and the “Santa’s coming!!” hype.
Being each of these integral personas is exhausting, but then I draw from my adolescence and realize that my own parents worked tirelessly to provide these milestone moments for me and my brother, and it gives me hope.
I’m not a Theatre teacher for nothing, right? Time to play a character.
If you haven’t seen the “Rise of the Guardians” movie with your family or significant other, you’ve got to. We’ve watched it with Darcy for several years now, at varying holiday seasons, and I get something new out of it each time. Despite my personal enjoyment in the Santa character’s rogue-like Russian Mafia persona, I feel a closer kinship with Jack Frost, the outsider Guardian who goes through his hero’s journey feeling ill-equipped for the role that the Man in the Moon assigned him. It takes him finding his own gift to realize that he has the correct emotional resume to fulfill the job, and I think of myself much the same as a parent, particularly when it is up to me/us to provide the guidance, nurturing, adventure, organization, and wonderment in the holidays that are all part and parcel of this journey.
I have also been reading the book (image above) as a bedtime story, so I can impart the message of courage and endurance to my big girl. After a battle with Pitch (also known as the Bogeyman or Nightmares), MiM (Man in the Moon) is alone on the white sphere in the sky; he has to navigate a new world of isolation, and discovers the unanswered wishes of children in the floating balloons that are often released into the sky. This feels a lot like life we live now, hearing the wishes of our children (or students) while at an isolated distance. He is the first guardian, and assigns the other guardians (Nicholas St. North, Bunnymund, Toothiana, Sandman, and Jack Frost) to oversee them on Earth.
“We will watch over the children of Earth, guide then safely from the ways of harm. Keep happy their hearts, brave their souls, and rosy their cheeks. We will guard with our lives their hopes and dreams, for they are all that we have, all that we are, and all that we will ever be.”—William Joyce, The guardians of Childhood:
Man in the Moon—
What touches me is his discovery that he can light the night from afar to break the darkness Pitch creates, like a parent who places a nightlight to ward off evil lurking in shadow. They are the light.
I say this, because I know I’m not the only adult person, in this isolating time we are existing under, that feels compelled to wear all of these hats. Who has to avoid displaying too many emotions, dejected and afraid and sometimes secretly ill-qualified to keep providing encouragement and excitement. Who is worn down with promises that we will see the other side of this pandemic and come together as humanity again.
You are not alone. I’m here with you.
This also goes to all of my fellow teachers, as we are all guardians of our students’ childhood, too. What we have to remember, all of us (whether you’ve got kids or not), is that the youth of our world, both at home and globally, need us to be a solid rock. To be the guardians of childhood. What we do now, in front of their eyes, will set the tone for what is to come.
So, the next time you’re up before dawn, frantically setting the scene for a special day, or trying to spice up the daily routine so you don’t have to feel like the “uncool parent,” or fretting that you’re not making these times as exciting as you can while still maintaining your distance from humankind, just remember: it is sometimes the chaos of life that is the most beautiful, and order can be overrated. Our children will not remember us as the ultimate party planners; what they will remember is feeling loved.
Hold those sentiments close to your heart, and be okay with the messy bits of life. I have to be.
~Kindred Spirit~ 4.13.2020