Friday, April 20, 2007


Five-year-old Priscilla would like to go around the block on her bike, alone. In fact, she assures me, she wants this more than anything she has ever wanted before. Holding my gaze, widening her eyes, and weakening my resolve with her china doll complexion, she begs for an affirmative answer from me, her mother, now clenching the fate of an anxious daughter in her hands. But once she turns that corner, I can no longer see her, my Priscilla, who up until this afternoon was contented with living under my feet, my wings, and my field of vision. The severity of my indecision highlights an inability to adjust to the needs of my young children, brazenly seeking out their independence. Her request opens doors I’d just assume keep locked a little longer.

For a moment I am transported to the future, to a time when those same pleading eyes will pierce my gut with a request for the car keys, an out of state college application, or an internship in Paris for the summer. For a second, I am bewildered by her current desire to ride that hot pink bike around the world. What about the craters and cracks in the sidewalk, and the cars not watching their speed? What about the unleashed dogs, the landmines, and the hypodermic needles aimed at her slender arms, her veins light blue and innocent, as innocent as a newborn baby. My baby, Priscilla, still believes that the world is good.

“I think children should wear helmets all the time,” declares my friend, half-jokingly.
“Here, here!” I concur, “and bullet-proof vests, and floaties on their elbows to keep them buoyant.” I had dreamed of the day when I could take back my arm from around the bulbous belly of a toddler, when my hip would be loosed from the straddling of impish limbs. It does get awfully hectic – wiping spills, cooling fiery tempers, and playing endless games of hide-and-seek. It does get lonely and frustrating – slowing down your life to raise a family. But growing pains are called just that because they stretch and pull our limits, broadening horizons and limbering constrictive tendencies that bind us to ourselves. I, for one, grew awfully attached to the outpouring of lavish affection, soothing my frazzled nerves with puckered kisses.

It is tempting to put my foot down, and forbid this heinous act of getting older, or to lock up my children with the holiday dishes where porcelain flesh cannot be nicked by carelessness. “Is it worse,” I wonder, “to watch my sons and daughters suffocate behind protective glass, or to have to take my chances with their freedom? Should I teach them fear or let them choose to fly?” When I think back on my own enchanted childhood, barefoot and bold with unrestraint, I am warmed by memories of neighborhood jaunts, sunburned noses, and secrets shared with giggles over Popsicles, cold and sweet. But I also squirm with disbelief at the foolishness of some of my choices. “It’s different now,” I‘d like to claim, but maybe it’s only me that changed while shedding waning youth like dried out skin.

What good is love if it’s all bunched up and wrinkled in my pocket? What good is teaching goodness if that goodness isn’t shared? What a gift to ignite a torch for all those flailing in their blindness, and to bless the murky darkness with its light. What a gift to light my children with compassion. “Be wise my little ones, but be not afraid to step out and seize the moments fresh and fleeting. Be aware of, but not inhibited by affliction. Be strong, be brave, be conscious of the suffering and the joys of vulnerability, and then love with open hands and open hearts!”

“Please mamma, I can do this. I know how to get back to home!” Priscilla states her case with authentic fervor. But it is more than just permission she is asking for. She is caught, held fast, between her roles as “little” and “getting bigger.” That burrowing gaze is fierce but her sucking thumb, still wet and rosy, betrays the stoic courage now presented. Priscilla needs my confidence, in her, in me, and in that bike’s ability to maneuver around the dangers, on a sidewalk I cannot see from where I’m standing. “O.K.,” I say, “start pedaling,” as I hold my breath and wait for her return.


juliana said...

Oh Molly again i find myself speechless.... your writing is amazing and beautiful.
I just love this post. I found myself smiling and remembering my innocent, fearless childhood years:)
I will save this post for years to come when Noah and Silas enter this stage:)
Thank you!
Love in Christ,

Ser said...

Oh, how hard it is to let them go. I love the image of her fierce gaze juxtaposed against her rosy sucking thumb. Growing up is such a contradiction, and can be so hard for both parent and child. You have captured this so well, Molly.