Last summer, when we moved here, the drought was severe and our little neighborhood pond mostly a half-hearted mud puddle. It smelled of baked earth and rotting plants and after a visit or two to sort of scope out the area, we didn’t go back again. Why would we? It was teeming with mosquitoes and not much else.
This spring, the kids have rediscovered the pond. Now there is no greater prize for them than being told they can pull on their rainboots and grab some cups and buckets and go out to the pond to “explore.” Exploring is serious business, you know. There are creatures to be captured (always just for temporary observation in the bucket, then freed later) and sounds to consider and—often—a pair of geese waddling around and watching intruders with curious but tolerant glances.
The pond is close enough that the kids can go out alone, and this often affords me precious uninterrupted work time. They head off, happily, and I turn back to the trappings of adulthood.
Having two children, for me, is often an exercise not unlike standing on the middle of a see-saw. I’m in the middle, they’re on the ends, and my job is to try to balance them perfectly. The reality is that one child always needs me more, and while that changes from day to day (and sometimes, hour to hour), I am keenly aware of wanting to not only meet their needs, but to find that balance in the center, that magic place where they don’t look back and say “Mom loved you more than me.”
(Because I don’t love either of them more, of course. But I do love them differently, because they have different needs.)
Lately, Chickadee has been needy. That’s okay, and other than the moments when I have to remind myself that she’s not trying to drive me insane, I am more than happy to tend to her as best I can. And Monkey, well, he’s often happy to just go with the flow. She’s been getting more attention and he hasn’t complained, because it’s not his way. I’m not even convinced that it’s because he hasn’t noticed; I think that if he does notice, he knows she needs me more and that’s fine with him.
Chickadee may be my old soul, but Monkey is my “free love” kid. He’s more than happy to love the one he’s with. (Remind me why this is a good thing when he’s older and doing more extensive, uh, loving.) He doesn’t fuss and demand more attention the way his sister does.
But she’s been getting a lot of attention, and this weekend I realized I needed to have some one-on-one time with my favorite boychild. While Otto and Chickadee worked in the garden, I asked Monkey if he wanted to go to the pond.
“Sure, I guess!” he said, gazing wistfully at his sister and trying to calculate how much fun it would be if he went by himself and not with her. “It’s more fun WITH someone, though,” he finally added.
“I’m going with you,” I told him, and his eyes lit up and he ran for his boots.
I pulled a butterfly net out of hiding and presented it to him. He brandished it like a treasured samurai sword as we walked, talking about how many minnows he’d be able to catch with it.
I didn’t do much talking, myself. I let him tell me everything. About the minnows he caught last time and how he’s going to catch even more THIS time, about the funny frog Chickadee almost caught that one time, about how he’ll be more careful not to get stuck in the mud like he did the last time, and how Mama, this is SO MUCH FUN, Mama, you should come to the pond with us ALL THE TIME!
As I watched my youngest stomp through the stream and talk at top volume about how fish are easily scared and so we need to BE MORE QUIET, I listened, REALLY listened, and thought to myself that this is what grace looks like. Grace has scabby knees and smears of mud and sweaty hair plastered to the back of the neck, and it exudes a steady litany of chatter and nearly knocks you off the bridge while waving the net around and it is the physical embodiment of peace in THIS VERY MOMENT, regardless.
I hope he’ll take me down to the pond again soon.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone.