Seeds of something fine
Give truth a chance
I’ve written here before about my habit of staring out windows looking at stars. Apparently, my 2-year-old daughter either reads this column or is familiar with this habit of mine.
A few weeks ago we were in the car at night at a gas station and I was staring out the window. After a long silence, I heard her ask from the back seat, “Mommy, are you looking for stars?”
It was a simple question and I’m sure my answer made very little difference in her life, but I weighed several options before I spoke.
Before she was born I swore I would never be one of those parents who lied to their kids to keep some mystical fantasy childhood alive. If she asked if there was a Santa, I’d tell her the truth. Santa is an international symbol of the spirit of love and giving we celebrate at Christmastime.
Yeah, that didn’t last.
Still, I have tried to maintain as much of that original ideal as possible. I do think kids are lied to far more often than they need to be, because, I’ll admit, there are times it’s just easier. And most of the “lies” aren’t really malicious, they’re just the way we do things sometimes.
But somewhere back in my idealistic days I thought long and hard about it and decided, y’know, I think we don’t give kids enough credit. If we don’t at least give them the chance to understand the truth, how will we know what truths they are ready to hear? I think, in fact, there’s a pretty incredible failsafe in the fact that humans are wonderous creatures. If her little brain can’t wrap around something I’m telling her, it won’t and we’ll try a different approach. But if it can, how wonderful the things she might be able to contribute early on, when her brain is still flexible and firing all the time, if it’s not also trying to wrestle with (some) disillusionment.
All of this, of course, flashed through my brain much less eloquently as we sat at the gas station. I chose the simple, boring truth.
I hadn’t been looking for stars, I told her, but that sounded like a good idea and I asked her to join me.
In hindsight I wondered if I should have told her I had been. I think it’s perfectly lovely for her to believe any time we adults are staring off in the distance — zoning — we are looking for stars.
Then, this past week, I got another shot at it. On a particularly difficult day, her question resurfaced. She and I had locked horns all day and my husband was out of town. We sat at the dinner table and I stared out the window in our dining room, not touching my food, just ... thinking. Again my precious girl asked me, “Mommy, are you looking for stars?”
It was daylight out. There were no stars. But I didn’t take the time to explain all the technical blah blah of sunlight and the rotation of the earth, etc.
In fact, I told her “Yes, Lyla, I am.”
In some ways that was true. I was searching for points of light in an otherwise dark day so as to not feel discouraged. I knew we had a long evening ahead of us and I needed to reflect on the good things that had come my way that day if I was going get us back on course before bed.
“Do you like to look for stars?” I asked her.
She responded “Yeeeah. Mommy does, too!”
I smiled. “Yes, Mommy does too.”
That, also, is true in a deeper sense. I do like to look for stars. Much as my habit of searching for the points of light in the night sky is familiar practice for me, so is the habit of staring into the nothing and search for points of lightness, of hope, when darkness seems to be overshadowing my day. I have learned it is a good way to keep the darkness from having the final say in who I turn out to be.
So, maybe she doesn’t really grasp that deep deeperness of what I told her. She is, after all, only 2. But, now she has a solid foundation of truth for me to build on some day. When she’s ready.
By then I bet she’ll have become really good at finding stars in the night sky. The leap from there to the idea of always seeking points of light in times of darkness isn’t very far and I hope she’ll remember she has seen me do this her entire life.