I am a stone. I am a still stone in a rushing stream. The water crashes around me, pelts me with sticks and leaves or smaller stones, maybe even a squirrel carcass or two—but I am unflappable, steadfast, imperturbable. Just try to dislodge me. I am a stone.
But I have been practicing. And it helps. I know rocks. I love rocks (just take a look at the windowsills in my home—all kinds of rocks in all shapes and sizes lined up in neat rows or stacked one on another) and have spent my share of time sitting by a swift-moving stream or two. Yesterday as I was flipping through a collection of articles given me by Gabriel’s Waldorf teacher, I came upon the image of the rock. To quote the essay, “If you are the parent of a teenager or a toddler, then hold the image of a stone in a stream. You have to hold steady like the stone and let the water of emotions flow around you without dislodging you, carrying you away, or knocking you off balance” (from “Parenting a Young Child” by Susan R. Johnson MD).
The gist of this part of the article is that young children can sense thoughts. They read our agitation, anger, frustration, impatience. They read our peace. So by controlling our thoughts we play a part in shaping our environment, and in a way, our children in that environment. Lovely idea. I’ll get back with you if it actually works. But here’s what’s happened so far.
Shortly before suppertime tonight I found it necessary to run an errand. Terrible time to run errands, by the way. The kids are grumpy with hunger (Who am I kidding? I’m probably the grumpiest this time of day), traffic is usually terrible, and to top it off, today a misting fog-like rain made visibility less than optimal. But I had something I had to pick up before nine, and there’s no way I’m going after the kids are in bed. Other than the clerk not being able to find what I was supposed to pick up and the fact that I lost Gabriel several times in a very large store while Jonah was oblivious in the toy aisle and the line of people queued behind me continued to grow (at least I had an audience when I freaked out after realizing that G was no longer in the toy aisle with Jonah and nowhere to be seen); other than the boys finding a sunglasses rack and proceeding to manically try on several pairs, knocking several more pairs to the floor, which I narrowly saved from being crushed by their feet, but not before I snapped “No Sunglasses!” and the clerks went silent for a moment because they heard how pissed I was and about to completely lose it); other than the fact that this was the precise moment that Gabriel decided to let me know he’d just terrifically pooped his pants, well, other than that, it all went pretty smoothly. So we set off for home. Sometimes the most peaceful part of my day is when J and G are strapped into their seats. At least I know they’re not breaking anything or endangering themselves. So I relaxed a little and started thinking about that stone in the stream. So I’m feeling the stone, and a little smattering of peace, when Jonah starts talking about death. It’s all pretty incoherent at first. But pretty soon he’s talking about how he’s going to be alive, and so will Gabriel, but I will be dead. “Will I be a man when I die?” he asks. “I hope so. I hope you live a very long life,” I say. His rejoinder, “It takes a long time to die.”
You ain’t kiddin’ baby.
But at suppertime he’d moved on to birth. As I urged him to take a bite, he said, “When I was a baby, there was a boy inside of me.” He sees the boy he is now as a seed that lived in him as a baby. John asked, “Is there a man inside you too?” Affirmative. Now I’m not saying that my visualization of a stone in a stream had anything to do with this, but at least it helped me tune in. And in the midst of running upstairs to see what all the screaming was about at bath time (Jonah had gotten Mr. Waternoose stuck in his mouth, which completely freaked him out), I glanced out the front door:
It’s not a still stone in a rushing stream, but it is an almost perfect leaf plastered to our screen door, an effect of that drenching fog-rain we’ve had all day. And it’s probably a more accurate image of my inner life anyway.