Families, Children & Marriage

On raising children to dance

Tonight, I watched my children dance in the churchyard under the palm trees, surrounded by scurrying geckos and warm sea air.

I thought of the richness of the childhood moments they will remember from this place – the lilting accents of their grandparents, the swirling nod of their cousin, the raucous cricket games of their uncles.  I thought of the losses and gains this reality will imprint on their hearts – the comforting ability to store their hearts completely in one place, the blissful assumption that the world in front of them is the only one which matters, the conflicting knowledge that their lives root themselves deeply in both the expanse of the Midwestern cornfields and the hurdy-gurdy of an isle in the Indian Ocean. I thought of the ‘normal’ they will take for granted – seeing the whole entire world as just around the corner, playing in a world where three-wheelers and taxis are both viable means of transportation, learning to make cookies with Grandma and chapatis with Aththa.

They don’t know any of these things, of course.

They’re just living as children do, fascinated with street dogs and three-wheelers and McDonald’s and ice cream cones.  They beg to watch the television, protest bath time, and pretend to shoot the crows in the garden.

The warm breeze blew romantically that evening, enticing me to relish that moment of my children dancing, twirling in their joy-filled innocence.

It will not last long.

Soon enough, they will stumble upon hardships of life.  Their dance will stop, at least momentarily, as they learn to navigate the brokenness of themselves and the world they live in, and then perhaps again as they realize the need to learn a new way to dance.  Twirling aimlessly will turn into deliberate steps.  Jumping up and down with abandon will slow into a sweet give and take, responding with a gentle force to the realities around them.  Eyes squeezed tightly shut will open widely, taking in both the beauty and pain around and within them.  Arms flung wide will lift up, grateful in worship and hopeful in despair.

I return quickly to reality when they run wildly toward me.  They slip their hands in mine, and our dusty feet shuffle themselves together toward home.

Tonight, I am grateful for these moments we share.

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