Monday, April 29, 2013

I'm Not...

Tonight, after a busy day and a busy weekend, Tyler lay in bed clad in Batman pyjamas swinging his legs back and forth. "I'm not tired Daddy--I have so much energy I could jump from my bed all the way up to the moon!"

Jennifer and I had spent most of the weekend outside with Tyler, watching with giddy, childish excitement on Saturday as he attempted a tall wobbly ladder-obstacle-course-thingy over and over again until he could do it; scootering to church on Sunday, then running and playing soccer in the backyard, then jumping on the tiny trampoline that our lovely neighbors gave us, then playing with various Imaginary People, then convincing various Imaginary People that it was, indeed, time to eat dinner, then convincing various Imaginary People that it was, indeed, time to take a bath, then convincing various Imaginary People that it was, indeed, time to go to bed.

The thing about Imaginary People is that they are incredibly useful allies in the journey to Try and Get Children To Do What You Want Them To Do.

Our two favorite Imaginary people are Mr. McGooga and Lucy. Mr. McGoogal is a 70-year old man who walks around with a duck on his head. (The duck can never be removed, even when he goes to sleep or takes a bath.) Mr. McGoogal always does things in an opposite or highly strange manner: he wakes up at night and goes to bed when the sun rises; he brushes his teeth with mud; he walks around naked outside and then puts on all his clothes for bath time; he eats dessert first and dinner second; he picks his nose and his butt (often simultaneously); he inevitably goes the wrong way when attempting to go anywhere.

Our other favorite Imaginary People Person is Lucy--who is almost two years old and cries often, always wants her own way, and consistently doesn't know what to do (other than knowing that she doesn;t want to do what her Mommy and Daddy think she should do).

Tyler often needs to correct what Mr. McGoogal does, or explain to Lucy why doing something she wants to do isn't necessarily the right thing to do at the moment. When tired, Lucy and Mr. McGoogal begin to sound an awful lot like one another--but when awake, they are so good at what they do (imaginarily) that they often make very real changes in Tyler's decisions.


Because at other times, even Imaginary People (no matter if they have ducks on their heads) can't even convince a four-year old that he should go to sleep.

Other times like, say, tonight.

While jumping to the moon did sound like a lot of fun, doing so would have caused an inevitable extra half-hour (including blast-off and then landing, plus the blast-off and landing back on Earth), and Tyler had already woken up early this morning. Jennifer and he had drawn endless pictures of beautiful things, I had done the paper route, and even thought the grumps made a few appearances, Jen and I gave one another that wordless, knowing parental look which said quite loudly: Early bedtime tonight?



Except, as Tyler lay in bed swishing his legs back and forth, attempting to start an uncanny amount of new option for what could be done instead of sleeping, even the star-studded prowess of Mr. McGoogal and Lucy could not be of aid.

And tonight those immortal, bold, four-year-old-mastered words came crashing all around me like a layer of bricks covered with sawdust that had been previously coated in a thick layer of mud which may, possibly, have had traces of dog poop mixed in. On the edge of exhaustion, and bereft of any real hope from Imaginary People.

"I'm not tired!"

I'm not tired!

I'm not tired!

So I did what any patient, kind, warm, loving, gentle, endlessly hopeful father would do. I pretended to be asleep.

"Daddy, did you hear me? I said, I'm not tired."

More pretending to be asleep. And I threw in a big yawn with my eyes closed tight because, hey, I was that sleepy.

Tyler stopped talking to me, then began swishing his legs louder and faster and louder and faster and--

Singing. We've got singing. Loud singing, with more leg swishing, back and forth and back and forth, and then the singing and the leg swishing began to work in unison, forming an even more imposing wall of Mud/Poop-Coated-Bricks that were crashing, crashing, crashing all around me and the singing and swishing and is he veer going to fall asleep because he REALLY needs it because he is SO OVERTIRED and what's with even the IMAGINARY PEOPLE not even working!!!???

And as I continued to pretend to be asleep, a decrescendo occurred. A glorious, melodious decrescendo. And then, a small bit of quiet, and then two beautiful words: "I'm not..."

And that caesura--that beautiful poetic silence--cause me to wake wide up from my pretend sleep and look full at Tyler's face. There my boy lay, peacefully sleeping like the overtired, exhausted child that he was.

And it dawned on me in that moment that Imaginary People are amazing. They're beautiful and helpful and downright giddy fun. But reality is also pretty great, too. Because a lot of us adults aren't much different than four-year olds--swishing our legs back and forth, trying to convince ourselves that we're not tired,  not sad, not in need of help, not in need of love, or a kind word, or hope, or just a little bit of truth.

It's hard to admit stuff. It's scary and we're afraid that we'll miss out on good things if we admit the truth. If we're sad, we wonder if it means we made the wrong choice. If we endure failure and suffering, we fear others will tell us we walked into it ourselves. If we travel through confusion, we worry others will direct our steps rather than simply love us through the unclear trail.

So we say things. We say, I'm not sad or I'm not tired or I'm not battling some pretty severe heartache or I'm not depressed or I'm not scared.

But the thing is, we are. The fact that we're members of the human family essentially guarantees that we're all of these things sometimes (hopefully not all simultaneously, though, because that would even freak out Mr. McGoogal).

But once in a while, we find a space where we can let a caesura slip into our exteriors. We find that place or those people with whom we can pause just long enough to allow the silence to create a space authenticity and love have a chance to breathe. Sometimes, we find ourselves saying just two words: I'm not...

And we pause, because we know we are. And knowing we are gives others the chance to hold our hands, fix their eyes, and respond with love. Maybe then we stop all our nervous leg swishing and fall into a deep sleep. And when we wake, the world looks new again.