don’t lose your twirl

When we were children most of us remember twirling around and around until we fell dizzily backwards onto the summer grass, eyes closed waiting for our heads to catch up with the rest of our bodies. That sort of happy/sick feeling inside twirling gave us made us want to do it again as soon as we could stand up straight. Unless, of course you had to stop because you twirled yourself right into a wall or table or your cousin’s head–  this is just hypothetical, of course.

Recently my daughter was twirling, as she is prone to do, when suddenly she stopped mid-twirl and told me quite frankly, “Mom, I hope I don’t lose my twirl.” For a second my heart froze. She was saying that she couldn’t imagine a time when she would no longer want to spin around furiously and swish her skirt in a very princessy sort of way. But to me it touched on a tender spot and I’ve pondered her words ever since.

Why do we grow up and lose our twirl, our sense of wonder and romance and endless possibility? Surely I wasn’t always this pragmatic–was I? No, I’m certain I wasn’t. I was like her– twirling around, dreaming about kissing my Prince on the lips and stuffing baby dolls up my shirt to pretending to be pregnant like mommy. I honestly thought I could be a princess some day. She’s like I was–twirling and all. She has big little girl dreams that she wants to see come true tomorrow. And honestly that scares me to death.

The truth is I can’t twirl anymore, not literally anyway. I get a little queasy just thinking about it. Something happened to me in my twenties to my head and now I get dizzy just staring up at the sky while I’m walking or watching 3D movies. And twirling? Not going to happen without me passing out. Or worse. So I guess you’d say I’ve lost my twirl. And lately it feels gone in more than in just a literal sense. Wonder, joy and awe replaced often with anxiety, fatigue and fear. Who can think of twirling when I’ve got all that holding my feet down like lead weights?

But this is not what I want for her. My dear, precious girl who is full of so much joy and kindness and determination. I want her to keep her innocence and free-spiritedness as long as possible–which seems increasingly difficult to manage in this world. Oh, that her heart would not be too bruised or damaged by others! But even if it is, I hope she can face these storms with the grace and fearlessness I’ve already seen in her.

This is the choice I hope she makes– to keep dreaming and dancing and loving with an open heart. To keep her twirl even when life is hard; when there are monkeys hanging around the neighborhood, the power is constantly going out and family and friends are far away. Again, speaking hypothetically.

And if by chance she ever loses her twirl, my deepest hope is that someday she would find it once again. Maybe I will, too.

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i hate goodbyes

My heart has been aching for my oldest son for the past few days. He’s experiencing, again, the pain of goodbye.

Because we live abroad and all of our family is planted back in the US, goodbye is a all-to-common word. But so is hello. Only hellos take time to nurture and develop into something more substantial and goodbyes are mostly painful. Especially when you’re eight years old.

This weekend we got away and made some new friends where we were staying. Our kids swam together and had a great time playing in a giant air-filled ball in the pool and eating dinners together. After a few days my son started lamenting the fact that we only had two more days and how he wished we could stay longer or live close to these friends.  By Saturday evening he knew the time was short and had became sulky and irritable. At dinner he took out his anger on his younger brother by punching him in the leg. As such, he found himself in time-out alone for the rest of the meal.

As we all walked back to our room he opened up that he thought life wasn’t fair. And looking at us with tear-filled blue eyes he asked why do we always have to say goodbye to the friends we make? Like in February when his best friend at school moved to America. And before that when we moved to India. This is the boy who cried right along with me when we first moved here and felt so alone it hurt. He has been old enough to remember the friends and family we left behind. And quite frankly he’s tired of goodbye.

My husband’s family moved quite a bit while he was growing up and even to this day we pause and try to think where he’s “from” exactly–so he gets this to some degree. But for me, I had the opposite experience. Growing up we moved one time and it was to the house next door. I had the same friends from kindergarten until graduation. If anyone moved it was a major event. And when new people came in they had to prove they could be like us–just ask my best friend in sixth grade who adapted her Ohioan accent to sound more Southern (I have videos that could black-mail both of us and testify to this fact).

Here my son is the outsider trying to figure out where he belongs and he’s done amazingly well, but sometimes it gets to him, like it did this weekend. I don’t want him to close himself off in the future just because he’s afraid of the hurt that goodbye will cause later.

What to do? For now we have encouraged him to talk about his feelings. Cry. And grieve the loss. I wish I could tell him it gets easier, but for me it hasn’t and he’s so much like me sometimes it’s frightening. The pain of separation from the people and places I care most about is not something I can get over by getting new friends or embracing a new place.

I imagine this will be something we will dealing with for a long time to come as I’m not sure we’re the stay-in-one-place forever sort of folks. But I’m new at navigating the waters of wounded little hearts. So if you have any tips on how to make goodbyes easier I’d love to know what they are!