What Our Children Can Teach Us in this Time of Crisis
Twice in the past 24 hours, I’ve experienced the hot, silent tears that come when I’m overwhelmed by an emotional surge of simultaneous joy and pain. It’s hard for me to describe, but when I’m in the presence of exquisite beauty, I often feel a sadness at having just remembered something that was a part of me, but that I lost long ago.
This odd mix of emotions is what I often unintentionally tap into in rare moments, when I stumble into that deep well of surrender to all that is. It’s my terror-bliss at allowing myself to sink back into the oneness from which I sense I’ve come.
A Child Leads the Way
This time, my three-year-old is the one who opened the opportunity for me to “awaken from my illusion of separateness,” as Soul Path Parenting Guest and Author Patricia Pearce describes it, in Episode 28.
The surrender, Pearce says, especially during this time of pandemic and political crisis, is part of our collective disillusionment – as in dissolving the illusion – and carries the gift of opportunity to transform humanity’s harmful, old patterns. And it’s not unusual for a child to lead the way.
“Your children are your elders because they are farther along on the evolutionary path. They are the expression of a more evolved humanity,” she reminds us. “Our job as parents is to consciously not get in the way of the extraordinary, unfettered creativity of our children, to honor the wonder of the child.”
Easier said than done.
Like many families who are working and caring for children at home during the coronavirus stay-at-home time, my husband and I are juggling a lot, and tension and anxiety often stews just below the surface of our busy day-to-day activities.
Lately, nap time is like the holy grail, a priceless treasure that we’ve feared has slipped away from us forever now that our daughter is aging from toddler to preschooler. Yesterday, I went through the normal routine of darkening our daughter’s room, attempting to settle her into a peaceful calm, reading her story after story while she jumped and flipped on her bed, giggled and threw stuffed animals around the room.
“Sweetie, I’m going to count to three, and if you aren’t laying down and being still, I’m leaving the room and I won’t sing you your song,” I said, feeling frustrated and impatient to get back to my long list of adult to-dos’. When she didn’t comply, I moved towards the door, enforcing my word and teaching her what I thought was good discipline – follow the rules, or there’s a consequence.
“Mommy, mommy I want you!” she whimpered, clinging to my arm. “I miss you. I want you to sleep with me.”
I started to explain that I’m too big to fit in her bed, and too busy to lay down, and then something in me stopped me. I stopped talking. I looked at her. I felt how it had been tough for her lately. Before COVID 19, I used to work while she was at school. Any time she wasn’t in school I was all hers, fully present, no laptop, and trying hard not to use my phone. Now, on a daily basis, she experiences me retreating to my office, shutting her out, saying “sorry, sweet pea, mommy’s on a conference call., I can’t play right now.”
I took a deep breath. I tuned in to her. I listened some more. I let go.
“Ok,” I said. “I’ll stay with you awhile. Let’s make a pad on the floor and we can snuggle while I sing to you.”
When the bed was made, she said, “You lay down and I’ll play while you rest!”
“Here we go again,” I thought to myself. “Another preschool con job. I’ve been had.”
Out loud I said to her, “No. You can lay down with me or you’re going back to your bed and I’m leaving.”
Thankfully she laid right down, facing me, clasped my arm and dutifully closed her eyes. I started to sing. When I sing, I take the melodies of well-worn lullabies and make up my own words. I like to think that I’m weaving loving, affirming, and sometimes prayerful words into her subconscious as she falls asleep. I often wonder if she ever hears or pays attention to the words.
Astonishingly, within just a few minutes, my whirlwind, incessant-ball-of-talk-and-action child was asleep in my arms. I stared in awe at her angelic face, her soft breathing through her sweet little lips and the aura of peace that crowned her. A dozen things I had to get done pulled at my body and mind and said it was time for me to quickly sneak out of the room.
But again, something stronger anchored me.
I did a heart-breath meditation as a way to go deeper into the present moment. I imagined linking my heartbeat to my daughter’s. Ever since she was born, I’ve had this deep bliss-terror feeling from having the miracle of her and fearing dying and being separated prematurely. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, my anxiety about not living to experience life with my daughter has haunted me.
As I lay looking at her sleeping, the nightmare scenarios of laying delirious, alone and dying in a hospital bed danced again in my mind. I fought back tears. And then I let them come. I let those hot, silent tears pour from my eyes and drop on our pillow, grateful she couldn’t see me.
“I’ll remember this moment,” I told myself. “I’ll soak up every last bit of this moment and commit it to cellular memory so that if I get sick, and I need something to fight for, or something to help me let go, I’ll have this. I’ll have her.”
I thought, “She’s the best of me. She’s the best thing I’ve ever created. I’ll know that I’m leaving the best of me behind to carry on.”
As I lay still and let the bottled-up emotions pour out, I felt the moment shift. Something in me let go. And that was it. So I thought…
She Is Mother. I am Child. I am Mother. She is Child. We Are One.
Then, this morning, my daughter woke at 5:20 a.m. By mid-day, I could barely keep my eyes open, let alone tackle my work backlog. My husband graciously offered to watch our daughter so that I could take a “power nap.”
Our daughter slipped into my room a few minutes after I’d climbed into bed.
“Oh no,” I thought. “Here comes trouble. There’s no rest for the weary.”
Then she climbed up next to me, with a book in her hands and said, “Mommy, I’m going to read you a story and sing you a song to help you fall asleep.”
It was so sweet, I thought, “Ok, I’ll let her do this, but if she’s not out of here in 10 or 15 minutes, I’m going to have to shout out for her Dad to come get her.”
After a short story, she pretended to read from her book, she started singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Only it wasn’t the traditional lyrics. She started out pretty close, but quickly veered into my method of making up the words to the melody. My heart skipped a beat. To the tune of the song she was suddenly singing:
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
Stars shine out, it’s so bright
Shining a bright, bright light.
Close your little eyes and rest,
I love you, Marsha (my daughter calls me by my first name a lot)
You are beautiful, yes, yes…”
The hot, silent tears started streaming again. Suddenly, she was the mommy and I was the little cherished one. It reminded me of times when she has said, “Remember when I was the mommy and you were my baby?” I peeked out through my lashes, tears and half closed eyes so that she couldn’t see me looking.
She was looking at me with the same loving adoration with which I’d gazed upon her the day before during her nap. She took her little hands and caressed my cheek, the way I touched hers. She cradled my chin in both her hands. Tears. Tears. More silent tears.
As she kept singing, I kept stealing glances. Yep, she was me. I was her.
Then, she fell silent. We lay listening to each other’s breath for a while. I lost track of time. Then I peeked again, and she was asleep. I put my hand behind her head and held her sweet face. And I was mommy again. Holding my babe, my tired little girl who’d woken up so early.
I started to take another picture in my mind. I thought about death and separation. This time though, what washed over me was complete contentment, peace and calm. My thought?
“If I’m going back to the place where she came from – where we came from – that little angel, I’m going to be ok.”
And then I thought, “Wow, how extraordinary would my experience, and all people’s experience be on this planet if we could feel this way about each other?”
As Pearce asks, “Will we choose the path of creating a world that reflects the truth of love? Or will we try to hold onto an old story that has no future for us?”
Then I thought about my neighbors, with whom I’ve been at odds over non-compliance with social distancing measures.
“Easier said than done. But worth practicing,” I thought.
“Initiations always involve confronting one’s fears,” Pearce says. It’s so we can come into “right relationship with all of life on this planet.”
For today, my relationship with my planet is one little step closer to feeling right.