Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Butterflies Shrieking

This morning, Tyler and I went along with another stay-at-home parent and her daughter to Tropical World. Just outside of Leeds, the place is packed with butterflies, meerkats, turtles, parrots, and snakes. Tyler darted from one display case to another, while his friend, Alice, did the same.

Every view of every new animal was a magical one. Whoa! Meerkat eating something!

Hey! Butterfly on pineapple!

Yellow snake sleeping!

Turtle playing hide-and-go seek!

It's hard to watch two kids so amazed by animals and not also be amazed, too. It's hard to watch two kids jumping, smiling, laughing, and not be amazed. It's hard to watch two kids and not be amazed. Period.

But after we had made it back home to York, bid farewell to our friends, and made the five minute walk back to our home, the amazement turned into...well...not so much amazement.

Nap time, you see.

Tyler and I both tend to need our naps. Him because his little body is so frantically engaged in any activity while he's awake that it needs a little snooze to help him get through the full day and continue on his endless path of amazement. (Yesterday morning, for instance, he spent a full twenty minutes hanging off a green bench in the park trying to see if he could reach various branches. All it takes is a bench and a few branches and voila: a magical game.) I need the naps because they provide those pockets of time to flip open the miniature screen of my e-book, open up the current writing project (or this blog, or, okay, e-mail) and type away. Bang the keys. Watch the words form little congregations and then watch those congregations sing some songs.

But today, the transition from butterfly kingdom to nap world wasn't so smooth.

The shrieks started when we began singing our nap-time songs. As I attempted, "Good Night, Butterflies," Tyler's acapelo version sounded more like: "Aaaaahhhhhhhhh! EEeeeeEEEEAaaahhhhhhh!"

Me: A-MAZE-ING GRACE, How sweet the sound...


And so we sang.

When I finally gently placed him into his crib, said I loved him and kissed his forehead, it felt like the battle was already lost. As he gripped my hands (No, don't make me lay down on this pillow and sleep! How COULD you!?), I silently prayed, Lord, help! Him! Sleep!

Twenty minutes later and and two texts for support and prayer to my wife, Jennifer, Tyler was sleeping peacefully.

Dreaming, perhapss, about butterflies.

Amidst the naptime saga of today, beauty emerged. Yes, I am going to write that (perhaps) over-dramatic, corny-ish, tending towards making the microcosm of Tyler's room in York a macrocosm for understanding something bigger about life and about the world.

See, I can't help it. Because one of the things my remarkable wife write in a text of support was this: "Dreams do not have to be perfect bubbles floating just beyond our reach, but rather can live imperfectly among our daily realities."

I know. That's what I thought. Pretty stinking cool words.

She doesn't know I'm sharing them with you all right now. But I know that she won't mind, because I think they can bring the same kind of encouragement and support to you as they did to me.

So naptime didn't go great today. No perfect bubble floating there.

But the saga of struggle for napping doesn't diminish the beauty of the butterflies. And in fact, it may even do the opposite: it may make the beauty more real, more authentic. Indeed, such moments may help us allow our dreams to live imperfectly among our daily realities.

Perhaps that's a pretty darn good definition for life. After all, we're going to encounter butterflies and shrieking, no matter how much we try to avoid either. Some of us cloak ourselves with cynicism, thinking it's all going to be hard; none of it matters; and none of it changes much, anyway. Others of us cloak ourselves with denial, refusing to embrace the difficulties we come up against, thinking every challenge is somehow a personal attack.

That middle ground--where dreams are authentic and life is beautiful--seems to somehow embrace all that we experience and allows it to teach us for the journey that still lies ahead.