May 7, 2014
THE VERY IMPORTANT SMALL THINGS
I look into his large brown eyes. Someone very much alive is looking back. He doesn’t have language yet, at least not people language. Yet, he is thinking—something. The corner of his little mouth turns up without breaking the rhythm of his sucking. His eyes smile. I feel sweet, untainted love radiate from his squirmy little body into mine. The bottle empties. He lets go the nipple and sighs. Then he squeals and grins and kicks his pudgy little legs. I lift him up for burping. He stands sturdily on my thighs. He is all of two feet high, maybe.
In another five weeks I will be gone–swept back to the Northlands to my little house and my woods and my Great Lake. Back to my solitude and my writing. Back to gardening and kayaking and camping with my husband. For now, I am my grandsons’ nanny.
I have been here now for seven weeks. It is the most intense lesson I have had in being present, living in the Now. I have friends traveling in Europe. I have a friend who went sailing in the Caribbean. I have a friend acting in a play. I have friends working hard at teaching and politicking and doing all manner of important work.
I make breakfasts and dinners and do up the laundry and sweep up the floors and blow little noses and change dirty diapers and play “Fight the Goblins” in the park with a four year old. When asked, “what’s going on in your life?” I’m not sure what to say. Today I made bread and took a walk through the neighborhood with the baby and chatted with the local drunk who wished me a wonderful day and found a little vase for the fistful of dandelions my four-year-old grandson brought to me.
About a year and a half ago I took on a part time job as a nanny to bring in some supplemental income. I hadn’t provided regular, hands-on “mommy care” for babies and pre-schoolers for a very long time with the exception of a few weeks here and there with my grandson. A few weeks into the job I had a self-worth crisis. After changing a poopy diaper and then trying to carry a very fussy, very heavy one-year-old around, I kept thinking, “What am I DOING here?! I should be teaching! I should be providing consulting services to some organization or school! I’ve “been here, done this” a LONG time ago!” I felt angry and small.
It got worse, or rather, I got worse. I began to engage in vicious games of “If Only I’d…” and “Compared to Her”… One afternoon as I rocked the fussy child to sleep, something inside me broke open. I cried. A soggy, smelly mess of nasty, old, mouldering energy poured out, toxic junk from a long ago time when I didn’t feel like I was of much value “just being a mom”. I had tried to be the best mom I could, of course, but I don’t know that I collected any gold stars or honors certificates; certainly not any mother-of-the-year trophies, which to me, at the time, meant I’d not even managed to be very successful even at “just being a mom”. I watched the sleeping child in my arms. “Who are you?” I whispered. “From where did you come? Why did you come? Maybe I am caring for a child who will grow up to be a great man and who will do really important work in the world, I thought. What are you here on this Earth to do? What gifts have you brought?” In this little human body is a great Being of Light trying to come to terms with being human, I thought. A Being constrained by time and space and the human growth cycle and experience–for now, at the mercy of his caretakers. Perhaps this Being, outside of the time and space we both have incarnated into here on Earth, is my Teacher, a great Master, a Leader…
The longer I thought about this, the more humbled I felt. I knew what a privilege it is to do this work of service–caring for the small ones. Whether they are our own children or someone else’s doesn’t matter–we are all one, all connected, all individuated aspects of Consciousness, or as Einstein would say, Universe. But I think I had only known this in my head. That afternoon with the golden haired little toddler my heart opened and let the fullness of this truth into a space it had not been able to reach before. The rest of my time at that job I felt honored and important and regarded my work as sacred. I was greeted warmly when I arrived and sent home with kisses and repeated goodbyes and I love yous, no less valuable for coming from a 2 and 6 year old than a grown-up; my work no less important than that of a professor in front of a packed lecture hall.
Now, 18 months later, I look deeply into the eyes of this beautiful three month old grandson of mine. My heart fills up and my breath catches as I open up to this privileged time learning to be so very Present. My to-do list and my early morning meditation spent visualizing my ideal day is sure to be adjusted several times over. This is where I get to be today. Here with these children. Taking time to watch the ants build a home in the cracked sidewalk. Teaching a little boy how to pick a flower by the stem, and hold his shirt sleeves in his fist when putting on his jacket. Rolling on the floor giggling as we invent new things “the fox says”; telling stories “with my mouth” (i.e. made up ones). Today the baby discovered his toes. Last week he giggled. The week before he discovered he could do all kinds of things with his voice. I get to witness these discoveries.
Some day perhaps he will win a Nobel Prize for some other discovery and perhaps if I am lucky, I will get to witness that as well.