30 Jan Is the world going to be kind?
Miles’ ear infection reached a crescendo around 5 p.m., an hour before he was due another dose of ibuprofen. He wailed, and without thinking, I cradled him, all 44 pounds, in the same way I had when he was a baby — his legs straddling my waist, his face buried in my chest, close to my heart.
I rocked and swayed and bounced, as if five years hadn’t passed. And he grew heavier and heavier until he was asleep. I ate my dinner on the couch with one hand.
It’s raining today, a gray wash over the desert. It’s a good week to be sick. There’s work to do, far off deadlines, and conference calls with new clients. But nothing urgent. I open up two files on my computer — essays that have been partially complete for months. Something about the grayness and the vulnerability of parenting a sick child….my chest breaks open and the words finally spill out.
I’ve been thinking about kindness, whether it shrinks in the face of cruelty. I know people who believe it does, who are easily suffocated by bad news…and sometimes good news too, because they fear that someone’s good fortune means less goodness for them, that there’s a finite amount of love and success and kindness, and if someone else is experiencing more of it, they somehow receive less. They respond by shrinking away or lashing out with biting sarcasm or fierce judgment.
It’s an honest emotion, one that I see in my kids. If I praise Miles for something, Bronwynn fears I value her less. I remind her, there’s no correlation. If I cradle one child who is in pain, does it mean that I love the other any less?
“There’s enough love to go around,” I tell her. There’s always enough to go around. And, in my experience, kindness begets kindness — maybe not from the person you were kind to; maybe they’re not capable of reciprocating. But it’s like tuning a radio to a better station with less static. Tune into the frequency of the good, of the kind, the hopeful, and you’ll feel it.
It’s not about denying the struggle or painting a happy face on painful experiences.
With such limited time and energy, we have to budget, decide carefully what we will give our attention to, what gives our lives the most meaning and purpose. The rest can fall away.
In this moment, it might be holding a child with an earache. Tomorrow, it could be finding the courage to submit one of those essays. Or simply logging out of Facebook and calling a friend. Or sitting down with a cup of coffee and savoring it without distraction. …For many, I know, every ounce of time and energy is budgeted toward survival.
I think Bronwynn is starting to get the idea. She has struggled with reading and feels self-conscious because so many kids in her mixed-age classroom are more fluent readers than she is. But her teacher told me recently that B has begun to read to one of her classmates who has special needs. She adores it, and he responds with so much joy, which fuels her passion to learn.
And Miles? Thanks to rest and garlic oil and medicine and time, he’s too busy right now to snuggle, building castles out of Legos, not thinking about his ear at all.