Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Smiling Balloons


 “Did you know I always thought you were braver than me? Did you ever guess that that was why I was so afraid? It wasn't that I only loved some of you. But I wondered if you could ever love more than some of me."

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


On a recent bike ride I felt my mind open up.  As my body was working, my heart rate accelerating and delivering more oxygen to my limbs and brain, I found space to consider the kind of job I am doing as a parent.  I pondered the question of nurturing versus enabling.  Certainly it takes a great deal of paying attention and discernment to sense when we have crossed the boundary from helpful to rescue.  But when life is bearing down on us, as it does throughout the busy work week, and with school soon to be starting up again, do I have it in me to continue this parenting work.  Really what other choice is there?  It is coming towards me and my boys are growing up and the game board is changing.  There are new challenges arriving on schedule or beforehand opening up a whole new arena of struggle.  Am I up to the task? What kind of support do I need, and who can run interference for me?

Recently I have had some wake up calls.  Relationships, major shifts in domestic situation and my health have all required that I pay attention and awaken a bit more, all very helpful for my waking up and confidence building but still the question of when to give more and when to back off seems ambiguous and I am just so darn tired some days.

My bike riding and meditating have helped keep me in a routine of contentment and even joyfulness.  Certain choices each day help keep me awake and maintain my poise and composure with a sense of gentleness and fearlessness, at least some of the time. 

And the very simple and precious blessings of connection reign supreme.  There are these special moments that happen right before our very eyes.  Their true and lasting meaning comes from our paying attention.  As an illustration: last Wednesday my youngest son and I shared some special moments after I came home tired from work; I could have chosen to start doing household tasks but I instead read the situation, his mood, his need, and I set everything aside to really pay attention and to engage in the moment with him.  It took very little effort; the exertion came from my decision to slow down and notice.

Aidan was playing with a remote controlled car on our asphalt driveway.  We live in Mayberry, USA.  A small happy village nestled among other villages and towns south of Buffalo.  It is a friendly, cheerful place with very little neighborly drama at least that I can tell.  As he maneuvered his car along the driveway, he decided he needed to draw some roadways.  Remarkably and to his delight, I found some white chalk kicking around in a cupboard and we drew a curvy roadway with roadblocks and parking spaces for his tiny car to traverse.  I helped by putting aside my ideas of how to design the highway system and be directed instead by my eleven year old.  There I stood as an archway for the little car to travel under.  I did downward dog for an extra exciting obstacle course.  Somewhere along the line I lost my adult self and found myself magically having a lot of fun, laughing, really giggling at this car that reminded me of a mouse zipping around my legs sometimes ramming into my bare feet.  I was no longer there, Aidan was no longer there; there was only this spry little mouse, Stuart Little, bounding from one side of the driveway to the other, side to side, up and down, finding his way to our street and onto the adjacent street. 

On that next side street, Aidan discovered the gooey stickiness of the tar used to repair the side street and plopped himself down on the cushiony buoyancy of the black strips laid down whimsically in a fashion that seemed more haphazard than logical.  He yanked at some of the black goo to form a ball while I sped his Stuart Little car along the roadway for a time alas forgetting we were playing in the middle of the street.

With that toy’s enjoyment exhausted, we decided, only after minimal convincing on my part, to go for a bike ride.  We stopped on Main Street, USA for the quintessential American ice cream cone and then traveled onto our Village plaza to one of the million Dollar Stores, which presently dots every corner of our nation.  As I waited outside, he went in to make his emergency purchase of two air horns and two helium happy face yellow Mylar balloons.  While I stood there patiently reading the life-size advertisements adorning the store window, “chicken thigh for a dollar,” I pondered, ‘Who purchases chicken at the Dollar Store?’  In my arrogance, the reality shone through, there are no doubt a good many that benefit from the cheap chicken in this store, quality aside, and it was possibly the only meat some people could afford to put on their supper table.

My thoughts were interrupted as Aidan exited the store with two big smiling balloons.  This memory just leaves such an impression on me.  The smile on his face was equally as big and bright as his balloons.  That moment rendered me breathless, filling my heart to breaking.  There was no other person with whom I’d rather be.  This moment was perfect in its simplicity; it was complete.

I took his plastic bag and he wound the helium balloons around his wrists for the ride home.  Two bouncing happy faced balloons riding along with two happy faced humans in Mayberry.  Our last stop would be his father’s house so he could zip upstairs quickly ring his doorbell and run off before his father could answer the door.  Ring and run leaving behind a smiling balloon and his love and adoration for his dad.

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