My two-year-old son is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.
A couple of weeks ago I took Kai to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to see the Chihuly installations. In case you aren’t familiar with Chihuly, he is a world famous (if not the most famous) glass artist. His sculptures are huge and require teams of people to create and assemble. Some might say it’s impossible to improve upon nature itself, but if you ever get a chance to see Chihuly’s work in a garden, you’ll see that it is possible. It’s difficult to imagine anyone not being impressed by Chihuly. Oh…except Kai.
I know, he’s only two and has no concept of the time, effort, or skill that goes into art. But the sculptures are bright and wild. I thought he would at least be attracted to the color. No. What was Kai interested in most? The ants and dead worms that he found along the path. I wanted to make sure we had time to see each installation. Kai wanted to make sure he picked up every fallen leaf along the way.
Kai is a nature lover, possibly even more than I am. Every waking moment he wants to spend outside. He will sit in the yard, patiently examining the dirt, looking for bugs and snails that he will hold in his hands until it’s time to come inside. He talks to birds and butterflies and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hears them talk back. Why? Because he knows how to pay attention.
Every day Kai draws my attention to some detail of life that I’m too busy to notice, too adult to appreciate anymore. The sound of a train far off. Dust particles floating through a sunbeam. Spiderwebs catching the breeze.
As I mentioned in last week's post, I am on a journey to relinquish the vice grip of control I have on my life. I am worn and weary from trying so hard to orchestrate so many details of life so perfectly. But letting go is hard and I don’t know what it looks like.
Kai has been sick the past couple of days. When he’s sick, I go into super mom mode. I make him herbal tea, give him warm baths, extra vitamins, etc, etc,. And I don’t sleep. I hold him all night.
As I was holding him last night, praying he would get some rest, I thought to myself, “How can I possibly care for a sick child without being in control?” I realized this was basically the same question I’ve been asking myself every day for the past week or so. How do I take care of life without being in control?
It is not uncommon for mothers to have regular conversations with God. Some may say we’ve gone crazy, others may say we hear Him better than others. Both are likely true. So I posed my question. “How, God?”
A reply: “Why do you stay awake, holding your son all night when he’s sick?”
“Because I love him.”
“There. The answer is not in the How, but in the Why.”
So simple. There is only so much a mother can do when her child is sick. We can facilitate recovery, but we can’t force it. The same goes for life.
There is only so much I can control. When I think about the vast amount of factors outside of my influence, I am reminded of my own insignificance. And that is terrifying. I see how much my need to control is based in fear.
So then…why? If I follow the train of terrifying thought that I am basically nothing more than a drop in the cosmic bucket of life, my conclusion is: Why bother with life at all?
But then I hold my feverish son. I look in his eyes and listen to the train, see the dusty sunbeams and the spiderwebs. It’s there that I find love that is stronger than the fear.
I still don’t know exactly how to not be controlling, but I will be asking myself one simple question as a gauge: Why? My day-to-day actions may look the same and on the outside I may not change much. But I will be asking myself, “Why am I doing what I’m doing? Am I motivated by fear or love?”
Which one motivates you?