Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Dance like there's nobody watching

'Dance like there's nobody watching
Love like you'll never be hurt
Sing like there's nobody listening
And live like it's heaven on earth'.

William W Purkey

I'm not sure why I like this little poem as much as I do, though I suspect that it might be because I am so self conscious that I can't dance like there's nobody watching, unless I have a small child to dance with, and I can't sing like there's nobody listening because I can't really sing well at all and it would certainly spoil someone's musical experience to have me hooting away next to them.  How I would love to dance as if no-one were watching. To lose myself in singing no matter what the sound that's produced. To be so free... sigh. I'm so far from all that with my narrow, ordered, constrained little life.

As for loving like you'll never be hurt; with regard to romantic love I think that having been hurt in the past makes you more able to recognise when someone is giving you freely all the things that you once tried to wrench from the wrong person and when you can see that, loving with abandon is much easier. Or perhaps I'm just in a loving mood. Perhaps there are those around me who might beg to differ.

I have to confess that loving my children is a different matter. It's the easiest thing in the world and the hardest. Every day I find myself offering love in so many ways; time, so much time, in words, in smiles, in cuddles, in practical tasks, in little offerings - and being forced to rally and give again when it's met with a childish lack of comprehension or understanding. Children can really hurt your feelings, can't they? I guess you know that better than anyone, Lord.

Enough of that for now. Here's a good thing.

On Sunday we took Elizabeth to a soft play centre near Sheffield for her birthday party. I work on the principle that while I can get away with a party for fifteen small children that's organised, hosted and orchestrated by someone else, then I will. At least until the children are old enough to come to a party unaccompanied fifteen Mums who might be assessing me, my house and my party food provision and finding me wanting on all fronts - but that is clearly my own lack of self-confidence speaking.

Lord, did you see Lizzie dancing? She so wanted a disco party, and she had on her new pretty dress that flies out when she spun, she had ribbons in her hair and she felt beautiful. She was beautiful. She shone. She danced and wiggled her hips and jumped and gyrated and waved and sashayed and it was a joy to behold. Afterwards she said to Daddy, 'Daddy, I danced in public, didn't I?' and he told her how wonderful she was. She smiled and accepted his admiration as her due. I loved loved loved seeing her enjoying herself so much. The joy on her face was such a special thing. For a child who is usually so self conscious she was just fabulous. She danced as if no-one was looking. Either that or she danced in a room surrounded by her friends and their parents and she just didn't care. I can't thank you enough.

When all her friends sang Happy Birthday to her at teatime she blushed and smiled and looked proud and embarrassed and overwhelmed but most of all she looked happy. I thought my heart would explode. It helped that her little sister was so generous in her attention all day, singing 'Happy Birthday dear Lizzie!' over and over. It was lovely.  Even worth the overtiredness and party-food-fuelled hyperactivity at bedtime...

I love my girls so much. Sometimes it's so hard to find a way through the maze; to treat them or to spoil them. To give them gifts to make them happy or to give them too much so that they take things for granted. To teach them how lucky/fortunate/blessed they are without robbing them of the joy of being children. I desperately want my girls to value their toys and it breaks my heart and sets my teeth on edge to see them play with a toy then carelessly discard it to reach for something else. I don't know at what age they learn to dissemble, and whether that's a good thing, but I now know to my chagrin that a six year old shows disappointment clearly on their face when unwrapping the wrong present from a distant friend.

How do you teach them all these things, Lord? Sensitivity, gratitude, manners? Sometimes I despair, and those are the times when I inadvertently teach them impatience, criticism and bad-temperedness.

It's a minefield. With every year that passes - no - with every day that passes I realise again that I can't do this parenthood thing on my own. If I were on my own my children would have no hope at all I don't think. I am inadequate in so many ways. I soothe and I nurse and I cuddle and I encourage and I advise and I love and I guide...and I scold and I criticise and I badger and I nag and I shout and I ignore.

My little girl growing up. The pride and the pain.
Lord God, heavenly Father and source of all patience. Source of all that is good. You who forgive me countless times a day, help me to forgive my children for being children. Help me to forgive myself for being less than they need as a Mummy. Make up the shortfall, please, Lord. You and me, how about it? If you sort me out and show me what to do I might be able to hold up my side of the bargain. Without your help, I can't do this. It's too big a job.

Today Elizabeth's first tooth came out. It's been wobbly for - ooh, an eternity, but she's been squeamish about wobbling it and has been most anxious about the day when it falls out. No amount of encouragement or offering to do it for her would get her to give it more than the most gentle of wiggles, but today she forgot and bit into a big bit of birthday cake. Her face went pale, her eyes enormous and her mouth full of chocolate and blood as she held out this tiny, tiny little tooth. Of course, I got out the marching band and swooped in with hugs and congratulations and glasses of water and after a few minutes of panic and dismay and confusion we arrived at a state of pride and world weariness which melted my heart and impressed Katy no end.

Lord, have I done a bad thing in bringing in the Tooth Fairy? I sort of dithered and of course, he who hesitates is lost.  Are you cross with me? Elizabeth is convinced of his/her existence because several friends at school testify to the disappearance of a tooth and the appearance of a shiny coin (£1! A pound! Can you believe that? The going rate when my teeth fell out was a ten pence if I was particularly lucky.) So I've sort of let it go. She's told me a number of times that her tooth is in a small box on her bedside table in case the TF couldn't locate it amongst the stuffed toys and other treasures that lurk beneath her pillow and she wants to know if she can choose what to spend her coin on, rather than never seeing it again as it disappears inside her money box. I hesitated and then gave in and ran with it  because I couldn't handle crestfallen. Not after she was such a brave soldier with a bloody mouth and eyes full of tears.

I just want to make them happy, Lord. I want my children to know you, and know what true joy is. I bring them to church and I read to them and I pray with them sometimes - not as often as I should, I know. I tell them about you, and they hear me singing my worship songs in the car. I could do so much more, I know. And then along comes the Tooth Fairy and steals some of your thunder and I just let him. Oops.

Lord God, I know that you love my children more than I do, which is something that I can't quite get my head round. I know that you want me to be the best Mum I can be and I know that you want to be involved in their upbringing too. Lord I need you, so do they, and not just so the Tooth Fairy doesn't get all the best lines. I need you because so often I am swamped by the demands on me, by the unrelenting day to day routine, by the frustrations and the decisions and the anxieties.

I love my girls, Lord. They are such a huge part of me. My Father, I give them to you, now, all over again. Teach them your ways, Lord. Teach  me to teach them. Give us more of the joy of dancing as if no-one is watching and singing as if no-one is listening. You are always watching and you are always listening, but you alone can delight in an awkward dance and a tuneless song if it is lifted to you by your child. Help me to love my children as if they will never hurt me, when I am hurt daily by them, and when I hurt them so often too.

Help me to live each day as if heaven were here on earth, because it might be. Heaven might be right here and I know this because in Elizabeth's face as she danced, and in her eyes as she realised the enormity of this milestone, of her first missing tooth, I glimpsed a little piece of heaven.

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