Although it seems like eons ago, I remember being pregnant with my daughter. I remember those months of waiting, anticipating, worrying, and wondering. What would she look like? What would she be like? Would she have my laugh and her father’s head for math and directions? No, seriously … It seems like a silly thing, but a good sense of direction is important in life. I have been known to get completely turned around in the city in which I lived for a number of years. My father always told me I could get lost in a wet paper bag.
We all want the best of everything for our children. We probably wouldn’t ever admit this out loud, but we want them to be more beautiful than we ever were. We want then to be smarter. We want them to feel they can dangle the world at the end of their own, personal bit of string, like a giant yo-yo. I wanted these things, too. I dreamed and planned and worried and wondered my way through every moment of every day of every month of my pregnancy. Life is so much scarier when you let go of the illusion that you have any form of control over anything that happens to you. I think this goes double — or maybe quadruple — when it comes to your child. Or even the thought of having children. Let’s face it: just the thought of having a child, of bringing an innocent life into this crap-fest of a world that seems to surround us these days, is downright panic-inducing.
In the end, I was lucky and blessed. My child is smart. And beautiful. And funny. And seems to make friends easily — a feat I never managed to accomplish. Whenever I get lost, she can usually tell me how to get back home, so I feel we scored one from the universe on that count, too. What more could a parent want?
Today, my kiddo and I went for a walk after school. This is a fun activity, which usually involves lots of sweating and huffing-puffing on my part and lots of excited chatter on hers as she tells me about her day at school. I love it. But today, my daughter was quieter than usual. Several times, she fell behind as I continued to forge ahead, intent on getting in my exercise time.
“Wait for me, Mama!” I heard her call after the second or third time.
Impatiently, I rolled my eyes and turned around to see her kneeling in the middle of the sun-baked sidewalk, her attention focused on something in front of her. I whispered under my breath for her to hurry the heck up as I paced back and forth in an attempt to stave off the hordes of gnats that had swarmed me as soon as I stopped moving. Didn’t she realize I was exercising here? Didn’t she know I couldn’t stop? That my time was valuable?
As I watched, she picked up a teeny twig and prodded at something on the sidewalk. I guess she sensed me looking at her, because she glanced up with an apologetic little smile on her face. “I’m sorry it’s taking so long,” she said. “I just feel sorry for them when they get stuck out in the hot or get stepped on.”
And that’s when I realized: She had been stopping for the earthworms. They had been forced out of the grass by a recent rain and then gotten stuck in the middle of the sidewalk when the sun came back out. Much like the grinch, I felt my heart grow about three sizes bigger in that instant. Did it really matter if I got my entire walk in today? Did it really matter if I finished quickly or took a bit more time? Did I really need to be so impatient?
“It’s all right, sweetie,” I told her. “Use this piece of bark. It’ll be easier for him to crawl onto it.”
I watched as she angled the piece of bark “just right”. She held it steady, holding her breath, as she waited for the worm to find his way onto it. And then, once she had her precious cargo in place, she gently moved him over to a shady spot on the nearest patch of grass.
It was such a little thing. It was just a worm. But, sometimes, the smallest acts of compassion seem to be beautiful and larger than life. Physical beauty will fade in time. Maybe intelligence will, too. Friends will come and go along the way. But compassion … If that stays with my girl, I think she will be all right. And, perhaps, the world will be a better place, too. I know my corner of it is. That’s the sweetest gift of all.