First-Time Courage

Tonight, my daughter will embark on a milestone of childhood: her first sleepover…and an away-from-home sleepover at that. This little girl is Elizabeth’s best friend ever, and her family has already taken Elizabeth to heart with their kindness and generosity, for which I am immensely grateful.

I have no problem admitting that my child is far braver than I ever was as a little person. She loves the New (especially New People). I hated sleeping away from home and, whenever I tried, I would usually end up calling my parents to come get me. I was such a creature of homeostasis that I always preferred for my friends to come to me for sleepovers. In fact, I am not sure I can remember a time when I actually stayed at a sleepover that wasn’t at my own house. Huh.

Again, my girl has proven herself to be far braver than her mom at times. Admittedly, she is a little nervous amidst her excitement. I absolutely get that and have been encouraging her to be brave, reminding my dearest girl that having courage and being brave do NOT mean being unafraid. Rather, it is still being afraid (even if just a little bit) and choosing to do the thing anyway. I remind my girl that her friend loves her and that it is obvious that her family already does, too, and will take excellent care of her. Also, she gets to spend 24 whole hours with her best friend! How cool is that?

So, this afternoon, I will watch my daughter step into her courage for something brand-new, exciting, and maybe a little bit scary. I will hug her, kiss her, wish her the best time ever, and remind her that I love her always and am very proud of her and her bravery. Then I will breathe deep and let go.

This is scary for me, too. As scary as her moving into her new room upstairs bit by bit. It means change, growth, a shift in how things have always been. But it will be fun for her and good time with her best friend; she will enjoy it. So I will have Courage so that my daughter can have Joy.

Courage, dear heart.

Image from Today’s Parent

Lessons from Rainbow Tails

Have you ever had a balloon? A shiny prize that floats in the air and bounces on the end of its string, all weightless and buoyant and free?

That was my daughter’s joy yesterday: a bright orange balloon that she received from a server at Pizza Hut for eating most of her spaghetti lunch. It bounced and floated and played with her all the rest of the day and evening. This morning, however, my girl was in utter despair to find it wilted and lackadaisical on the floor of the kitchen. Then she discovered that, if she ran, the balloon would “fly” again, and so she spent the next fifteen minutes just running in a giant oval around the living room, through the kitchen, and back. Not too long after, she ventured outside onto her grandparents’ carport and made another amazing discovery: if she stood there and held on to her balloon, the wind would lift it up and fly it all around her, much to her delight.

Unfortunately, amazement led to heartbreak as she loosened the bobbing balloon from her wrist, a gust of wind ripped it from her small hand, and blew it down the street before lifting it up into a tree where none could reach. Her balloon, her treasure, her resurrected glory, was gone! My girl came inside in tears, insisting that I put on her shoes so that she could go in search of and rescue her stolen balloon. When I explained that no one could reach it and it was gone, she collapsed into hysterical tears, hiding herself under her img_0754favorite blanket and turning into a sobbing bundle on the floor while I patted her back.

Then, of course, Grandma and Grandpa came to the rescue. Grandpa blew up a brand-new blue balloon, bigger than the one she had lost, and Grandma pulled out her ribbon stash from her craft things to allow my girl her choice of ribbons. She picked four (pink, blue, orange, and yellow) so she “could have a rainbow” attached to her balloon, the most beautiful tail I have ever seen gifted to a balloon.

Have you ever had days like that orange balloon? Those days where you are flying high one day, life is good, and joy abounds. Then, the next day, the world seems to come crashing down around your ears and things sit on you and sap your light and energy and joy. The floor you’ve collapsed onto is cold and hard and sad. Those moments, big or small, can be so very hard, so deeply downcasting, and so incredibly lonely. I’ve been there, I know those feelings, those dark nights.

And then something happens. A word, a touch, a helping hand, time given, your words listened to, your heart heard, your pain seen. It’s like that fresh morning breeze that lifted that poor orange balloon up into the air and set it to flying again. That encouragement can save a heart, kinds words folding into our souls, and helping to peel away the layers we have hidden behind but that have failed to protect us. Those words and actions of love set themselves upon the cracks in us, soothing their pain, and, maybe, even starting their healing process. We are helped up to our feet, given strength or someone else’s to borrow and lean on for that difficult moment. Eventually, we may look back some day and find that something is different. It might be our circumstances, our path in life, or maybe it is us as a person. But something is lighter, brighter, different; and maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself with a brand-new rainbow tail trailing in your wake. Then you know what the fun part is? Rainbows are light, light spreads, and, soon, the world will turn round and you will have the chance to gift someone else with a rainbow tail, too.

Still Good

photo (2)Today, I had the opportunity to teach my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter an important lesson. Today, her Stuffy broke. For those of you not in the know, Stuffy is a blue dragon stuffed animal from the Disney Junior show “Doc McStuffins”. He is known for being a “big, brave dragon”. My daughter has little plastic figurines of six of the main characters of the television show and, today, her figurine of Stuffy broke. He lost a wing. Now, I had attempted to fix Stuffy’s wing earlier in the day but my fix-it job didn’t take and the injured wing is now nowhere to be found. Elizabeth was absolutely distraught upon the discovery during an afternoon walk; she burst into tears and sobbed the entire way home. When we arrived back at our house, she refused to allow me to comfort her so, instead, what I did was take all of the figurines out of her little dolly stroller and set them up on the floor. Stuffy was in the middle with his friends all surrounding him. Then I said this to Elizabeth:

“Stuffy’s wing is broken, and I know that you are upset. But Stuffy is still a good toy. He is still lots of fun. He is still a big, brave dragon. He can still ROAR! And, most of all, his friends still love him. Stuffy is still Stuffy, even though his wing is broken. He is still a pretty great toy.”

I know that she is two and a half and that what I said has not sunk in all the way, but I tried to make my point by having all the toys close in around Stuffy and give him “cuddles”. Elizabeth seemed to calm and to be paying attention so I repeated:

“His friends still love him and he is still Stuffy, no matter what he looks like.”

Our outward appearance is not an indication of our inward hearts or the strength of our spirits, nor does it indicate a rating on our humanity. That is a lesson I want my daughter to learn that will be deep and abiding throughout her life. No matter the color of our skin, our abilities or disabilities, or our bodies or conditions, we are all still human beings. We are still pretty great; it doesn’t make us any less.

Just like Stuffy is still a good toy even with a broken wing, we can still be good (even great) people with all the differences and eccentricities inherent with being human. Yeah, still good (great, even).