She thrust her backpack at me on her way to the front porch. “Will you carry it for me?” As I fumbled with the door, I was torn between reminding her to say “Please” and lecturing her about being able to carry her own backpack.
I settled on the lecture, clearing my throat for, “Now that you are Six, you need to start Carrying Your Own Backpack, and if it’s too heavy, we should think about What to Leave Behind.”
Except that suddenly I was holding the backpack, and too startled to speak. The bag bulged, sagging heavily in my arms. My entire 45 lb. daughter might as well have been inside.
“What’s in here?” I said, fighting my rising irritation.
“And why are you bringing so many books to school? Are you bringing them for Share?”
Her tone was matter-of-fact. “No, I’m bringing them for A—-. His arm is in a cast, so he sits on the bleachers during gym. He needs something to read while he waits. I am bringing him all my Ninja books.”
My throat caught. I held up the bag, regarding it. My daughter WAS in there.
Tenderly, I slid the strap over my shoulder.
She reached for my hand. I held hers, and we began the walk to school.
I don’t need to get started here on the collision between backpacks, children and body mechanics, or the number of times I have massaged the damage. Those things were far from my mind. What was on my mind was the moment and mood that were transformed within me, in a second’s time.
That moment makes this a story about me, rather than a story about my daughter. I don’t question her adorableness and innate love, that was there all along.What changed was my ability to notice it.
The element of surprise changed my thoughts, from a story I was telling myself to the actual story that was happening right then and there, the story that was true. Through parenting, I have been surprised again and again. Often pleasantly, sometimes not. But with each surprise, I am moved from some abstract place into the here and now, in the present moment. It has increased my presence to the moment. A free gift.
Another freebie: That morning, I was reminded that we carry those who carry those who carry those who carry those. I was carried by the goodness circling back and through me. It reminded me that if we are carried, I am carried, too.