I can feel the flush start at my belly button and spread upwards. It comes with that tingly hot feeling and the irrational need to cry. By the time it reaches the roots of my hair I feel about fourteen, tongue-tied and awkward.
But I push through. I refuse to acknowledge my obvious embarrassment. Because there are things that need to be said. The only things that keep me going in a moment when I’d rather retreat into polite acquiescence. Things on behalf of the only two people who motivate such courage in me.
What my boys can’t put into words; what another adult is unwilling to hear – that is what I will always verbalize no matter how sticky my armpits start to get in the attempt.
Sometimes it’s to the preschool director, or a teacher. Sometimes to the dentist or the neighbor who can’t understand why they’re afraid of his dog. Sometimes it’s to the Sunday school teacher who thinks I’m soft on Micah. Sometimes to the guy running the tree stump grinder or the crew laying asphalt. I translate their hopes and whispered admiration; their worries and insecurities. The fact that Micah comes undone if anyone calls him a baby and Jackson will always side with him on that one no matter how unprovoked their retaliation may appear to others.
I am their interpreter. And I don’t take the task lightly.
Every time we speak up on behalf of our kids we communicate to them, “you matter. You are heard. You are not half a person. You have weight in this world.”
May my boys never feel like drift wood – the flotsam and jetsam swept along by an adult world where kids are of no consequence, their actions illogical and unworthy of trying to understand.
Their preschool aide is visibly frustrated.
“Jack put Micah’s shoes in the trash. We couldn’t find them anywhere and when we asked him he finally told us they were in the trash!”
She’s so frustrated and I’m so confused and my boys are hovering on the periphery. I ask her why? I ask her if she asked him, why? She just keeps shaking her head and muttering about how she couldn’t believe that he would put them in the trash.
Jackson edges closer and I can see he is shaking his head – there – out of her range of eyesight. I look for him. I look to him. I nod and ask him to explain.
“No,” he says firmly. “I didn’t throw them away. Micah left them on the ground when he took them off and I put them up. I put them up high so no one would get them.”
On the trash can. On top of the trash can, the teacher’s aide confirms. My boys nod, “yes.” I can tell it’s what they’ve been trying to communicate all afternoon. Sometimes translation is as simple as a realignment of perspective. A willingness to look down. To slow down.
We want to rush children. We want them to spit it out already, hurry up and get a move on, stop dawdling, and pay attention to us. When we pay attention to them it is rarely with our full attention. And usually when it is expedient to us.
The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them. Mark 10:13-16.
I want to hear you, my boys. I want to hear you with my whole face. And I want you to be able to tell. You matter to me. And while it is still up to me, I will always speak up for you.