Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My heart on an airplane

Watching my children unfold in front of me, I'm reminded of those little dinosaur-capsules from the dollar store.  The ones that look like a tiny pill, but you put them in water and a spongy animal emerges when the shell melts.

This is my children.  It's as if they were completely formed when they entered the world, and I just have to wait patiently for them to burst out and show their full shape.

I have to create the right environment for them, like having the capsules dunked into warm enough water, but the eventual shape of them isn't something I can control.

Last night, I put Jack on an airplane, to go by himself to Chicago.  As I watched the plane take off, holding my 6-year-old son,  I really pictured myself feeling emotional or nervous.  But I stood there with this complete calm, knowing that I was sending my child to do exactly what his life required right now.  A few days with the grandparents, and then off to a week of full-immersion Russian camp.  While I felt impatient to track on my phone when the plane landed, I knew this was exactly the right decision to send him.

Watching him and waiting with him for the plane, I had a new realization: What if, in giving them internal security and removing some of the geographic stability, we're actually creating a highly flexible, resilient sense of self? My 6-year-old was about to board a plane to Chicago, and not see his parents for 10 days. And with his completely zen, confident sense of purpose, you could see that he knew it was going to be okay.

At one point I said: "Y'know... I'm really proud of you, Jack."

Jack, asking as though he was seriously confused: "Why are you proud?  I'm just going on a plane by myself.  And to camp." 

I realized that that really is what it's about to him.  This is what he has to do to move forward in his life, so the details on getting there are inconsequential. 

He's known about the Russian camp for almost 2 years, and has been anticipating the day he's old enough.  He's asked many times for confirmation: "So it's like I'm going to Russia, right? Everything will be in Russian?"  I tell him yes, everything is in Russian, and he nods and looks relieved.

I've heard about children knowing from a young age that they're the wrong gender - a girl-core born to a boy body.  And I think of that with Jack. It's like he had a Russian soul, born to his American parents.  Getting on this flight to go to Russian camp is like he's going to get a week of being his true self.

I don't care what ANYONE tries to tell me about nurture vs. nature. I won't believe you, no matter what your credentials, if you tell me that Jack came out tabula rasa. Jack is in love with learning Russian, with building computer programs out of Scratch, with drawing detailed scenes in his notebooks. Those elements were there, in their most basic details, from the time he was a toddler.  I can look back and see all those things in his tiny self. He is wise and kind and insightful in a way that he must have been born with it.


Watching the capsules come off their little soul-shaped sponges is the most remarkable, beautiful, breath-taking, tiring(!) journey of my life.

Day 18 in the woods: Finding "purpose"

I'm figuring out why our current situation, living in a tent in the woods, is so suited for all of us.  It's because living like this is forcing us to have a purpose. 

Steve and I have been talking quite a bit about whether our previous, standard-issue living situation is too easy, which is why humans might create stress.  I don't mean that it's relaxing or not without problems, but there's very, very little physical labor in my regular life.

In the woods, I'm literally hauling firewood.  Carrying water back and forth.  Actually hovered over the campfire making the food, instead of flipping on a switch and setting the timer.

It feels really gratifying to have such a role in my basic needs, more than I expected.

And I see this sooooo much in the children!  Andrew gets to be the primal-warrior of the campsite.  The joy and purpose he gets from chasing animals off our space is really fascinating to watch.  He knows he has purpose in our family.  He serves an important value. 

So much of the time before, tasks around the house he couldn't really complete.  I'd give him a portion that made sense for him - like pulling his clothes out of the pile of clean clothes - but I think he instinctively knew it wasn't really that important.  Not like this. 

I have never seen this child so content.  So at peace. 

I really believe that *my* best life, and our family's best life,  revolves around novelty.  Not stability or even logic.  But sheer novelty.  Do I want to live in the woods forever?  Nope.  At some point, I'll have learned the lessons I needed to learn from my tent-existence, and it will be time to move on. Next might be a sailboat or a treehouse.  ;) Or a high-rise hotel overlooking the ocean, who knows. 

I've written before about how Steve and I decided that if our family structure had stability, maybe our geography didn't need to have it.  That maybe we could give our children a solid-core and sense of self, even if they did have 50 addresses by the time they graduate.  We'll see if that's true in the end, but right now...it's working.  For now, this is our family at its maximum utility.