I am so unbelievably moved by all of the hoopla at the Democratic National Convention this week. After a week of negativity and name calling from last week, it was such a welcoming emotional relief. All of the tears. All of the cheers. All of the love for the love and the hope and the positivity.
But my thoughts and feelings on this historic moment is another post for another day. Too epic for my thoughts to wrap around quite yet.
When moved beyond words, I tend to take things down to a micro level. One that rests within the walls of my home and my family and my heart. I can't even begin to speak on the marvelocity (A word I coined because I can) that is the FLOTUS. So much love for her. But what I am ready to speak on is what stood out to me in the speech of U.S. Senator Cory Booker. That man can preach. And while he was speaking to move the party and celebrate the presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton [EDIT: NOW OFFICIAL NOMINEE! WHOOT WHOOT!], he called the listeners’ attention to an African proverb that he believes embodies what we need in our leaders.
(Now first let me also call your attention to this article, that through tongue in cheek reminds us it probably isn’t really an African proverb. By no means am I giving all the credit to some wise African soothsayer. I just happen to really enjoy words of affirmation.)
Nonetheless, as much as our country and those who are called to lead us need those sound words to guide them, this mom and her two small children she is called to lead needs them just as desperately.
"Caroline, can you maybe walk a little faster? It’s so hot out here and you are taking forever."
"When are you going to walk? My arms cannot carry you any longer."
"We need to go. You are making me crazy!"
"I just feel like things will be so much easier when [enter current exhausting phase] is over. I just can’t handle this any longer."
I, me, my. Pronouns that speak of my voice in this life we lead. My voice is important. And my body too. And this body wants to get going. This voice wants her children to listen.
But what about their voice and their bodies? Don’t they deserve the same rights to move and grow and speak?
Hurrying along our day to check off the to-do lists is a constant struggle, one which I may not be prepared to fully embrace the change quite yet. But what I feel I need to pay attention to is that last part, hurrying along from one developmental stage into the next.
So often I equate speed with accomplishments. We did it! Another tough stage is down! Oh no, here comes another one. I’m going to be ready for it. Can’t fall behind. Gotta keep moving. One skill leads to the next and to the next and to the next they say. So we gotta be ready. We check the boxes of developmental skills and to do lists. First foods, check. First words, check. First steps, check.
This check list hangs over the head of every new and well informed parent. You answer the questions at the doctor’s office, at the playground, on social media as you do the math “Wait, isn’t he younger than my child? Why is he able to XYZ already?”
So we speed them along on our own agenda because the books or the news story or the stranger in the grocery store makes us think that it must be time. And we ourselves are supposed to be the leaders and the guides. Aren’t we called to get them from point A to point B? Don’t we know better? Isn’t our agenda most important?
But what we miss when we let this agenda of hurry be our guide, is the life and direction and will of the child who’s well being is alive in this picture too. They want to grow and change and move as much as we want them to. But they want to do it in their own time. And they don’t want to do it alone. They want to do it side by side us. Holding our hand. Watching our faces. Telling us their story with each new step.
What I believe is so important when watching our children make developmental strides throughout their day and week and year, is to realize how we learned about child development in the first place. Before there were email alerts for What to Expect This Week and before there were chat rooms with “expert parents” and before there were even doctors who told you what you needed to know, there were scientists. And to learn about children and their development they sat down and watched them. They made observations and lists. They studied how and when a child goes from the point A, where we are living right now with our little ones, to the point B, where we so desperately want them to get to next. And it was from this knowledge, from just using the child as the guide, that we created these milestones in the first place. Not the other way around.
Maybe we need to be more like the scientists than the experts that wrote the books and made the charts and told the doctors. Maybe instead of speeding along from one milestone to the next, because surely it will be better over on that side, maybe we actually need to slow down, watch our children, and figure out what they want, when they are ready. Maybe we need to listen, either with our ears or with our hearts. These small people have a lot to tell us. And if we do this together I bet we’ll get pretty far.
The picture I see if I'm not careful is one of me running ahead to the next stop, forever looking behind me at my children who are SO DARN SLOW, calling them to catch up. Instead, the picture that I think needs to come into focus is like the one above. Hand in hand, doing this thing together. Me watching them grow, them watching for my guidance, me holding them up, them feeling like they can't fall. And while I'm watching them and they are watching me, I look up and what do you know, we are there! The surprise of the arrival is so much sweeter when we do it together, when I look at my children instead of the goal ahead.
So readers, and voters, as I see it, we have a choice between two speeds: we can go fast, with our own agenda, alone and perhaps with disrgard to our fellow citizens, or we can stop and listen, look to either side of us to those who have a voice as much as our own and figure out how to get ahead together. If I'm working on that last part, surely we all can too.
Here’s another proverb that I'm going to credit to the stranger in the grocery store.
I’ll bet if I take their hand and go together with them as they grow, I’ll bet we’ll get pretty far. And maybe slow down that growing thing a little bit and enjoy a thing or two.