Saturday, February 26, 2011

'I know what my heart is for,' she said

Last winter, my wife was doing a workout video, and firstborn Brielle was joining in the fun.

Observing, Ashlyn asked, "Is there an exercise that makes you stay awake?"

Me: Actually, all kinds of exercise make you feel more awake because they make your heart beat faster and your blood flow all through your body.

Ashlyn:  I know what my heart is for.

Me: You do? What, Ashie?

Ashlyn: To wake me up.


Ashlyn: My heartbeat is like a lightning storm inside my body. Boom, boom, flash, boom!

I love my accidental Haiku poet, and I raise my Thanksgiving glass to her wisdom: To hearts that wake us up. To the inner electrical storms that beat life through arteries to hands and to world. To "boom, boom, flash, boom!"--and to whatever that lightning illuminates in you.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

'I'm the president's boss,' she sang

Last spring, Brielle came to me with sad news....

Brielle: I have sad news. Sidney is sick. And she is the one who always plans our games.

Me: I'm sorry she is sick. I guess you get to take a turn leading the games.

Brielle: Actually, Mia planned the games today.

Me: Brielle, you know what I like about you? You know how to lead AND follow. Like when you're with your sisters, you lead and plan the games. But when you're with your friends, you know how to follow and let them lead them. That is really good, because everyone has to lead sometimes and follow other times. At my work, I lead with my students, but I have to follow other people.

Brielle: Like the principal!

Me: Yep, and lots of other people too. (School counselors have LOTS of bosses.)

Brielle: Who does the principal follow? I know...God!

Me: Yeah, but she has to follow other people too. There is a man who is the boss of all the principals in the whole district. His name is Dr. Delgado.

Brielle: Oh, I thought you were going to say the president. Because he is the principal's boss too.

Me: Hey Brie, even the president has to follow sometimes.

Brielle and Ashlyn: Whoa!

Me: The president has other presidents and kings who are leaders in other countries, and he is not the boss of them. And actually, we are his boss, because we choose which president we want.

Brielle: (to the tune of the Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya-nya song used to flaunt one's invulnerability to another's threat of dominance) I'm the president's bo-oss! I'm the president's bo-oss!

Me: Verdad, niñita.

So here's to democracy, folks. Love our leaders or leave 'em, we are blessed to be bosses of presidents.

Happy Presidents Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"How did the war start?" she asked

We were listening to their favorite Pandora station two nights ago. Based on "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, it plays hours of Disney movie tunes, leading to spontaneous rounds of "Name That Movie." (You should try it sometime.)

Tonight it played "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" from The Sound of Music. (Yes, that was a Disney flick.) Over mac and cheese, edamame, weinies and greens, Ashlyn steered the conversation to the way the Von Trapp family had to run so they didn't have to fight in the army. We talked about how it wasn't just any army, but the Nazi army, the surface of whose evil I only scratched the surface with my description. Still, I think their main beef with Hitler's boys was that the Von Trapp kids would not get to see their Daddy while he was away fighting.

"That's like Ricky's dad," said Ashlyn. And next thing we know, we're talking about a friend whose Daddy is overseas in the U.S. Army.

Cognitive dissonance hung in the room: Nazis bad. Fighting bad. Children missing soldier daddies bad. At time same time, our soldiers good, our friend's daddy good. Fighting good?

And then, the question from Brielle: "Daddy, how did the war start?"

Deep inhalation, a proud thrill at such a big-girl question, and a sigh out. Resignation. This Daddy's answer would be so, so incomplete.

"Wow, that is a long story, girlies." My knowledge of Afghanistan's long history is limited to what I've picked up reading Khaled Hosseini's books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. (Great, sad and beautiful both.) Cursory though that is, it was still too much information.

So, I told them the 9-11 story. World Trade Center. Pentagon. United 93. Al-Qaeda. Their friends, the Taliban.

The horror of it contorted Brielle's face as she listened, especially when she learned that the hijackers did their work as an act of obedience to their idea of God, with a belief that it would take them straight to heaven.

Somewhere in the narrative between September 11 and Afghanistan, Ashlyn realized I was telling too small a story.

"No, Daddy, how did ALL the wars start?" she interrupted.

I told her that the answer was more story than we had time to tell before bedtime.

Which sounded a little better than, "I don't know."

I could have related a story as primal as Lucifer's bid for godhood, or as recent as my last angry outburst at them. Or any story of creatures lusting for dominance that their Creator never gave them. But I didn't.

Whether from ignorance or prudence or cowardice or a desire to hallow a worthy question with a season of silence before daring to answer, I left my inquiring daughters' minds inquiring.

Maybe I missed a teachable moment.

But what would you have told them?