One morning Dallas walks over to me on the couch, where I’m sitting with a Papermate Inkjoy pen and blue Hilroy notebook. I’m halfway through the three pages of my “stream of consciousness” writing. He takes a minute to look at the page filled with words, gibberish to his 4 year old eyes. “How do you know how to write all that?” he asks.
“I’ve been practicing for a long time,” I answer, fully aware that this is one of those teachable moments the experts tell you about.
“I don’t know how to do that,” he says.
“Well, first you just need to learn the letters of the alphabet. Because when you know those, you can write anything you want!” I rip out a blank page from my notebook and write down, in my neatest handwriting, the 26 letters, upper and lowercase. I title it “Dallas’ Alphabet”.
He’s been writing ever since.
We make a trip to Wal Mart to get him is very own notebook. He picks out one like mine but red. We choose a pen. I find him with his notebook tucked under his arm every day, at any minute. He finds a comfortable spot, on my bed or his, on the couch, on the floor, and settles in to write. I hear him whispering to himself the words he is trying to put down on the page. Say it slow and write what you hear. These words are ingrained in me from my years of teaching elementary students and it’s funny hearing myself say them to him.
Alex spends hours at the kitchen table with markers. Scribbling, or so it would appear. But to him there’s a story written, a picture as beautiful as a Monet painting. “Mommy, look at me!” He yells to me in the kitchen. He holds up his piece of construction paper, pointing to one small green shape in the middle of his marked-up page. “What did you make?” I ask him, wide-eyed. “Ummm, Daddy’s boat!” He smiles in pride.
When pens and markers aren’t in their hands, they’re racing around the house with airplanes and helicopters. I find them under the kitchen table, whispering to one another in this imaginary game I know nothing about. I quietly slip away.
I steal an hour here and there to write. I light a candle, turn the lights down, and dream a little. Dallas comes out of his room for water, to have me fix his flashlight, to tell me he’s not tired. I tell him he is and tuck him in, again, and retreat to the sofa, again, with my laptop and peppermint tea.
And though it is constant, too constant sometimes, this mothering thing, I occasionally see the flickers of gold. When I see a new mother with her baby, only just embarking on this journey, I sense something sweet unlike anything else in this world. There is a gentleness, there, in the way she holds her baby against her chest. But I see a river of power and strength, running deep. This river must be flowing within me, too. Though it mostly doesn’t feel this way, as we stumble about imperfectly on this messy earth, I’m sure this is the work of heaven.
Because with my kids my soul has felt more deeply the things of heaven — joy and love and hope. Like candles we get snuffed, our fire fades, but we are always there to light each other back up. As I raise them up, they are raising me up. As I teach them, they are teaching me. In every moment we are calling each other to be greater than we are, right now.
So right now my heart is grateful, to have these little heaven-holders in my midst.
Much love to all you child-raisers out there!