Thursday, May 27, 2010

Love is a three-legged race

Have you ever met someone and thought, I wish SHE were my Mommy? Even when you are 41 and she is young enough to be your, well, much younger sister? This is how I feel about my guest poster. Jen is the owner of Ellie Bellie Kids (she makes the most amazing tutus, capes, messenger bags and crowns) and she and her talented husband publish Classic Play, the wonderfully creative eMag that is a must-read, and I'm not just saying that 'cause I'm a contributor. 

Jen is the type of mom who stays up late making a tie for her son to wear the next morning to his preschool graduation. The birthday parties she throws for her kids have all those little touches that 1) I'd never think of and 2) make them so, so special. AND she's willing to instruct me, via the magic of Skype, on how to do a little craftiness of my own (emphasis on the little).

She knows just how to spark the creativity in her kids, and helps inspire them to dream. She is incredibly thoughtful and fun and genuinely inquisitive about all things big and small. Also? She's beautiful. I try not to hate her, especially because if she WERE my mommy, then maybe I'd get some of those genes. So please give a warm welcome to Jen, as she poses a very interesting question to her kids. I'm so totally doing this next time I'm trapped in the car with my own kids!

I'm driving in the car with my kids. They're squabbling about something. I think my son has touched my daughter's drink holder. I need a distraction, so I ask them, "What is love?"

I do this a lot. I'll ask an open-ended, global questions as a sort of exercise. I like to think that by asking these questions a couple things happen:

1) I encourage the kids to think and develop their communication skills
2) I demonstrate there's a culture of openness so in the future they'll always feel they can talk to me
3) I show them that I care what they have to say, that I'm willing to listen
4) I get a peek inside what's going on in their little noggins.

I have all these lofty reasons for doing this exercise. It's true. And mostly, they're all pretty academically sound. At least, I think so anyway. But, between you and me, my favorite part of this exercise is hearing all the amusing things the kids come up with. It's fun!

So why this question of love? I guess you could say it was in the air.

My youngest (age 4) is involved in a sort of love triangle at school. He likes this girl. This girl likes him. But wait! There's another boy who likes the girl too. It's profound. And at the same time, it's not. Four year olds are fickle that way.

I also wanted to check in with my oldest (age 7).  At the beginning of the school year all the girls were whispering about marriage. It seems the girls in the class wanted to marry one boy in particular. They even formed a girls' club where they'd draw pictures of weddings and scribble professions of love on pieces of scrap paper. The marriage talk eventually fizzled. In its place, I noticed something quieter, more refined developing.

It happened during a three-legged race.

A couple weeks ago we attended our school's spring fair. There were games, snowcones, hot dogs, face painting, little red tickets and all the makings for an old-fashioned good time.

There were field games too—a sack race, a crab walk and a three-legged race. While my daughter isn't very athletic in the traditional sense, she is pretty competitive. (What can I say? She's her mother's daughter.) Naturally, she rushed to the line when she heard there was a chance to win a ribbon.

First up, the sack race. My daugther quickly got in her sack, and did some practice hops to warm up. You know, one needs to get a feel for the bag.

The race started and she looked pretty strong. But after the fifth hop she fell down. From then on, things went downhill. Each time she fell, though, she got back up and tried again. Eventually she crossed the finish line. But she came in as one of the last. She was visibly disappointed. Her head hung. There would be no ribbon.

Next up, it was the crab walk race. Disappointed but determined she rushed to the starting line. She got into the crab position and waited for the start. They were off!

She tried so hard to crawl backwards on her hands and feet. But try as she might, she just wasn't able to do it without falling every third move. She reached the finish line dejected. Again, there would be no ribbon.

Losing twice was too much for her. She ran to the bleachers where we were sitting, watching the drama of competition unfold. Her eyes turned red. She cried. We did our best to convince her that it's not always about winning, it's about getting back up. She said she understood, but I don't know if she really did. It certainly didn't seem to make her feel any better.

"Line up for the three legged race!" the announcer bellowed.

My daughter broke free from my hug and ran back to the start line. There were still tears in her eyes. I was proud. I am certain I would have given up at that point. But her? She didn't. (What can I say? She's her father's daughter too.)

Now at that particular moment, something happened. Something sweet and almost magical. A little boy from her class walked over to her, grabbed her hand and said softly, "I'll be your partner."

Joined together at the ankle by a little blue strip of fabric, my daughter and her friend stood there on the start line, hand in hand.

The announcer yelled, "On your mark! Get ready, get set, GO!"

They were off.

From the bleachers I cheered. I yelled their names. I made a fool out of myself. And you know what? I didn't care. I wanted my daughter to know I would always root for her. It didn't matter if she won. What matters was that when she fell, she got back up.

And just like out of scene in a movie, one by one all the other kids tripped, fell or came apart in their mad-dash attempts to cross the finish first. But my daughter and her friend were steady. They worked together. They never let go of the other one's hand.

They crossed the finish line first. And this time, there was a ribbon. Two as a matter of fact. Two purple ribbons with the letters MVP written in gold. I'm pretty sure I heard Chariots of Fire playing softly in the breeze.

When my daughter talks about this friend now she smiles shyly and says she likes him. When asked why, she responds, "because he's a really good friend."

Back to that scene in the car. How did the kids answer my question about love? Here's what they said:

"Love is when somebody looks pretty and she is nice." age 4
"Love is a warm, cozy feeling." age 7

And me?

"Love is being there for you through every stumble and fall—and cheering you on the whole time." age 33


Candice said...

Jen- I cried! You are one amazing lady. Thank you for that. Cheryl- thank you for letting Jen share w/us.

Simply Lovely Gifts said...

"love" is this post :-) Love it!!!

kirsten said...

oh well crap, I cried too. And I've heard the story! Beautiful, beautiful post Jen. You are one of the world's best moms.

Jen C said...

Candice, thank you! It was such a special moment.

Sarah Masci said...

I am crying too Candice. So incredibly special & heartfelt, Jen.

Anonymous said...

That is very touching and true, an inspiring story

Rudri said...

What a lovely post. I love all of the responses at the end. Love evolves and you captured that in this post. Thank You.

Marit said...

so sweet and profound. your post just really made my heart melt. thanks for sharing! the best part? made me think of my own dad, who passed away quite a few moons ago. he'd often ask these types of questions. you sound like an amazing mom, jen!

Jen C said...

Thank you everyone!

Rudri - it's amazing to watch the evolution of love through my kids. It's surprising to feel it change in myself. Thank you so much for your kind words.

Marit - you just made me tear up.

Ciaran said...

So sweet! What a great story. You know my kids love to talk to me in the car too. But it's always about S-E-X right when I am merging on the freeway. I should have a question or two handy in these situations.

Andrea (PARENTise) said...

Awww...this is what I look forward to over the next few years. Those are the moments you want to capture and replay on video over and over and over again...thanks for sharing JC!

Aging Mommy said...

Cheryl you chose a great guest poster today.

Jen, this is a beautiful post, I just love the story, thank you for sharing your special moment. I would have been jumping up and down with pride too.

Dawn said...

Awesome, Jen. :)

The Empress said...

Very sweet, the kind of live in the moment that is a treat to witness.

Thank you for sharing with us.

Jen C said...

Aging Mommy - thank you so much. (and may I just say, the line you wrote in your most recent post about the silence being deafening gave me chills. I've felt the same way)

Dawn - you're the best. Thank you!

Ciaran - I REMEMBER that story. ACK! I'm sure those days will come. sigh...

Andrea - you do! These are going to be great years for you and the girls (and daddy too!)

Sarah - It was a good cry though right? Thank you for your kind words.

Kirsten - You are wonderful. thank you for being such a supportive friend!

Leslie - Thank you my friend!

Dave Cooper said...

Love is a mom like Jen. And a girl like Ellie. Great piece!

Pamela said...

Very sweet! Personally, I'd love for either Cheryl or Jen to adopt me - how 'bout a co-parenting thing. Come on - we could work something out! No? Well, can't say I didn't try:)

hezro said...

Aw...this choked me up too. i was feeling like a major sap until i clicked over here to the comments and saw that other people got choked up too. *whew*

Great guest post Cheryl!

Jamie said...

Aw, this is such a sweet post, Jen. I love the picture of Ellie and the boy holding hands!

LoveFeast Table said...

Beautiful. Not much else to say.

SeriouslyAHomemaker said...

Jen, this is so so so good!! i just love it. i can't wait to ask the same question next time my 4-year old is singing "we will, we will rock you!" too loudly and my 6-year old is yelling for her to stop and the 8-year old is complaining that she needs to lose weight...

this might change the minivan dynamics a bit!!!

love the race stories! you go, girl!


Jen C said...

Pamela, the custody issues might get a little hairy, but what the heck. I'm willing to give it a go.

Hezro, thank you! I know you're a loyal reader of Cheryl's. I'm was a little nervous taking over her space for a day. I'm so thankful she let me.

Jamie, it is such a sweet picture isn't it. So happy Dave captured it.

Kristin, thank you!

Angie, you had me laughing so hard. Yes you rock the minivan dynamics. Just when they think they have the edge you swoop in all ninja like catching them off guard. Aww yeah.

Jules said...

Thank you for such a lovely reminder of the innocence and determination of children. You have such a beautiful site!


I'm Angie. said...

jen/cheryl, how did i miss this post? loved the story and your writing. thank you for the warm fuzzies :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails